In honor of World AIDS Day and the annual “16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence,” UNAIDS and Together for Girls joined forces to hold an event called “Ending the Dual Epidemics of HIV/AIDS and Gender-Based Violence.” Together for Girls,a partnership of U.S. Government agencies, international organizations including UNICEF, and private sector partners including the global medical technology company BD, raises awareness about the scourge of gender-based violence (GBV), and works in developing countries to support a comprehensive response to preventing GBV and helping survivors.
U.S. Fund for UNICEF Board Member Gary Cohen talking about Together for Girls at the AIDS 2012 Conference in Washington, D.C.The event featured a keynote address by Melanne Verveer, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues. She spoke of the importance of connecting policy to people, and recounted a moving story of a young woman she met in northern Thailand who contracted HIV after being trafficked and raped, and who passed away only a few days after meeting the Ambassador. GBV and HIV/AIDS are each serious threats to children, but combined, GBV and HIV/AIDS disproportionately and brutally hurt women and girls. One in every three girls has an unwanted sexual experience before she reaches 18 years of age, and these girls are significantly more likely to contract HIV. A study in rural South Africa revealed that girls who experienced sexual violence often in childhood had a 66% greater risk of contracting HIV than young women who did not experience sexual violence. To make things worse, not even 1/3 of children and pregnant women receive the treatments they need to maintain their health and to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Stigma surrounding both AIDS and sexual violence prevents most girls from ever reporting cases of GBV, or seeking assistance and HIV testing. The dual epidemics of HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence need to be stopped. UNICEF is a major player around the world helping communities prevent GBV, and helping women and girls receive the assistance they need to survive violence and AIDS. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF is proud to support UNICEF’s work and Together for Girls. In fact, USF board member Gary Cohen, Executive Vice President of BD, co-founded the initiative. Your support makes it possible for UNICEF to use its reach, breadth, and knowledge to fight both the AIDS epidemic and gender-based violence. This December, in honor of World AIDS Day and the "16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence," please take a moment to help fund UNICEF’s HIV/AIDS and child protection programs!