Breaking the GBV-HIV-GBV Cycle

Time to stop the GBV-leads-to-HIV-leads-to-GBV cycle
There has been a growing international recognition of how gender-based violence (GBV) and harmful gender norms are both a cause and consequence of HIV. Many studies confirm the linkages between HIV, gender inequality, and violence against women and girls. Despite this, programming and policies that attempt to reverse the HIV epidemic largely fail to address these linkages, or to acknowledge the overlapping gender-based violence epidemic. National HIV strategies and plans are critical tools for addressing these issues together. However, the HIV policy framework in the Eastern and Southern Africa region has a weak focus on the relationship between HIV and gender-based violence – and often excludes the role that men and boys can play.

In Issue 4
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Taking National Strategic Plans on HIV to the next level – more attention needed to involve men and boys and prevent gender-based violence
Sonke, together with the Athena Network, UNDP, UNAIDS, UNFPA, UN Women and WHO convened a high profile consultation in Johannesburg in December 2012. The event brought together civil society and government delegations from six countries in Africa (Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe), including MenEngage Africa partners. The country delegations got the opportunity to review their current national policies, strategies and plans (including NSPs), and assess the strengths and weaknesses of these plans with regard to addressing gender-based violence and engaging men and boys for gender equality.  The participants developed country action plans to integrate a stronger focus on engaging men and preventing GBV within National Strategic Plans on HIV.

What does the evidence-base say?

Part of the meeting involved reviewing the policy environment in the region and at country level in order to assess the degree to which involving men and boys in efforts to prevent GBV was incorporated. The results of policy reviews (conducted by NGOs such as Hear, Athena Network and Sonke Gender Justice Network) were presented, pointing to gaps in existing National Strategic Plans for HIV. For example, most NSPs focus on providing ‘technical’ solutions, rather than addressing structural drivers of HIV and many NSPs do not gather data divided by sex nor have sex-specific targets. There was also a lack of information on the role of men in HIV and GBV prevention, as well as the exclusion of groups such as sex-workers and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex (LGBTI) people.

What are the next steps?

The consultation resulted in strengthened collaboration between MenEngage country networks and the UN at the regional and country levels. The participants were of the opinion that they gained a better understanding of the mutually reinforcing cycle of gender-based-violence and HIV, and the importance of engaging men and boys for gender equality to interrupt and halt this cycle. The country delegations are expected to build on the evidence-base presented and continue the work on country level, based on the action plans developed.