A call to action against gender-based violence
UNAIDS International Goodwill Ambassador and actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan recently joined UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Dr Luiz Loures and the Indian Secretary of the Department of AIDS Control Dr VK Subburaj on a mission in Mumbai to highlight the impact of gender-based violence and the need to continue scaling up efforts to stop new HIV infections among children.
Held on International Women’s Day—8 March—the mission was an opportunity for Mrs Rai Bachchan to raise awareness around issues of gender-based violence and advocate for more work to be done in India to promote gender equality, the empowerment of women and provide support to people affected by gender-based violence. The delegation visited the Dilaasa project, the first public hospital-based crisis centre in India designed to respond to the needs of women facing sexual violence and violence within their homes and families.
Globally women are 55% more likely to be HIV-positive if they have experienced intimate partner violence. A study among married women in India established that physical and sexual violence by husbands was associated with a nearly four-fold increase in the prevalence of HIV infection.
During the visit to the Dilaasa clinic the group met with staff as well as some of the women personally affected by gender-based violence. They heard about the importance of the critical support offered by the crisis centre as well as the empowerment the centre provided by allowing access to services that had not been previously available.
As part of the mission Mrs Rai Bachchan was also able to take stock about progress made on stopping new HIV infections among children in India, an issue close to her heart. She visited the Bandra Bhabha Hospital, India’s first integrated health centre where women can access a broad range of services including treatment to prevent new HIV infections among children and HIV counselling as well as access to care and support for gender-based violence. She talked with the women and mothers using the centre and heard how the centre had given them renewed hope.
India is one of the 22 countries which account for 90% of new HIV infections among children. In 2011 UNAIDS and partners launched a Global Plan towards the elimination of new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive to increase efforts among the countries most affected. As UNAIDS International Goodwill Ambassador, one of Mrs Rai Bachchan’s main roles is to raise awareness to stop new HIV infections among children and advocate for efforts to be stepped up to keep children free from HIV and their mothers alive.
“A people’s movement for protecting women and girls against violence including sexual abuse, led by women, is emerging in India and around the world and we must all be a part of it and strengthen it… All women, whether rich or poor, from developing countries or developed countries, sex workers or a housewives, need a safe environment where they lead equal lives, and able to make choices about their sexual and reproductive health without coercion or fear of violence.”
UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Dr Luiz Loures
“I am deeply moved by what I saw here today and I applaud the hospital staff for their excellence. I also believe every girl has the right to grow up in a world, where she is not discriminated against because of her gender. Girls and women must be encouraged to recognize that equal opportunities exist in society today and they must be encouraged and supported to make productive and informed choices. We don’t need words of reassurance— WE NEED ACTION!!”
UNAIDS International Goodwill Ambassador Aishwarya Rai Bachchan