The Interface between Violence against Women and HIV/AIDS The Experiences of HIV Positive Women Beneficiaries of the Society for Women and AIDS in Africa -Ethiopia in Kebeles 03/09 and 04/05, Arada Sub-city, Addis Ababa

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Addis Ababa University


This research focuses mainly on women who reportedly became HIV infected as a result of sexual violence. It examines the women’s experiences of sexual violence and HIV/AIDS from their perspectives and explores the connection between sexual violence and HIV/AIDS in the context of the women’s lives. It also investigates how victims of the double trauma of sexual violence and HIV disclose their victimization and HIV positive status to others, their coping strategies and the stigma they are facing and their agency in overcoming these adverse situations. The approach used for this research is mainly a qualitative one which is suitable for the issue of sexual violence and HIV/AIDS. In-depth interviews and focus group discussions were conducted. Two small surveys were conducted to triangulate findings from the interviews, for this, two sets of questionnaires were prepared. Drawing on data collected through these methods, the study describes the experiences of the women by means of cases of five women, and it demonstrates how the nature and scale of sexual violence impacts on women’s vulnerability to HIV/AIDS and the coping mechanisms they adopted. Participants were drawn from the Society for Women and AIDS in Africa-Ethiopia (SWAA-E) in Arada sub city in Addis Ababa, a non governmental organization mainly concerned with women and children that gives care and support to those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. The five women reported that the reason for their HIV positive status was sexual violence. All of them did not report their victimization to legal bodies; instead, they opted to keep silent about it. Their reason was that they were ashamed and did not know where to go. The research has also indicated that even though there are laws affirming women’s rights, the reality is far from it. Women also are not aware of their legal rights. The women’s victimization has resulted in their being HIV positive and three of them were forced to bear and single-handedly raise children of their perpetrators. This has added to their burden and further impoverished them. The women came to know their HIV positive status because of persistent illness, testing at antenatal clinics during pregnancy and testing for HIV as a requirement for visas abroad. Their reactions to their HIV positive diagnosis varied from acknowledgement to shock even attempted suicide. They were secretive about their HIV positive status apparently for fear of stigma especially for fear of being evicted from the houses they rented. Then again, they selectively disclosed their HIV positive statuses to the non governmental organization that assists them. This is indicative of the need to address HIV/AIDS related stigma in HIV prevention and control efforts. Among the stigma they have experienced are being evicted from their homes, being refused clothesline to hang their clothes and insults from those closest to them. The coping mechanisms adopted by PLWHA are taking the Holy Water (Tsebel), using traditional herbalists, caring for their children and hoping that they will see their children grow up. In the mean time, all five are engaged in productive works such as taking skill acquisition trainings, gainful employment and pursuing college education



Gender Studies