Survey shows HIV+ women suffer from human rights violations; Oakland women plan response

For Immediate Release
Contact: Sonia Rastogi, 510.986.0340 ext 317

Oakland, CA- March 10, 2011 – Although much progress has been made, HIV-positive women routinely suffer from human rights violations, says a survey released by the U.S. Positive Women’s Network (PWN). The PWN, a project of Oakland-based Women Organized to Respond to Life-threatening Diseases (WORLD), released its survey results in time for National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, March 10th. The purpose of this annual national day is to commemorate  and recognize the impact of the HIV epidemic on women and girls, encourage women to get tested, know their status and protect themselves, and honors the 300,000 women estimated to be living with HIV in the U.S. alone.

The PWN, a national membership body of HIV-positive women, surveyed over one hundred HIV-positive women in the U.S., and uncovered a number of trends.  Among them:  laws that make it a crime not to disclose HIV status to partners, even when using a condom, which may inhibit people from getting tested in the first place, or from maintaining regular medical appointments if they are HIV-positive.

“Discrimination and bias prevent people from accessing care or even from wanting to know their HIV status.  Why would you want to know if you can lose your job, your relationship, and your health insurance?” said one survey respondent.

It’s estimated that well over 20% of Alameda County’s HIV cases are among women, a figure much higher than the state average.  The majority of women living with HIV in the County reside in Oakland and are African-American or Latina.  Activists emphasize the importance of addressing the broader social issues that put women at risk for HIV, including poverty, gender-based violence, and structural racism.

“In Oakland as around the nation, HIV disproportionately impacts women of color, particularly African Americans and women living in poverty.  Human rights violations aren’t just important to address overseas. We must stay committed to fighting for the rights of women living with HIV right here at home as well as abroad,” said Cynthia Carey-Grant, Executive Director of WORLD, an organization that has been working with HIV-positive women since 1991.

In response to these findings, the women of WORLD will organize a dramatic public action to illustrate the devastating impact of these violations on real women’s lives later this month.  Visit www.womenhiv.org for details.  The full details of the survey report can be viewed on PWN’s new website: www.pwn-usa.org

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Who we are: Women Organized to Respond to Life-threatening Disease (WORLD) is an Oakland, CA-based organization that connects HIV-positive women, their families, allies, and communities to one another through peer-based education, support, advocacy, and leadership development. Founded in 1991, WORLD is the home base of the nationally-renowned Lotus Peer Education training program and the U.S. Positive Women’s Network. For more information, visit www.womenhiv.org

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