Mary Ellsberg
Myra Betron
Publication Date
October 28, 2010

This brief describes the strategies of two organisations that have tackled the challenge of combining HIV and gender-based violence (GBV) prevention: Puntos de Encuentro in Nicaragua and Raising Voices in Uganda.

The authors begin by explaining why GBV puts women and girls at greater risk of HIV infection through multiple pathways. For example, women who have survived rape are often reluctant to report the crime because of stigma associated with rape and, therefore, do not receive care or follow-up, such as post-exposure prophylaxis. As detailed here, an integrated strategy to address GBV in the context of HIV involves strategies such as advocacy ("Laws need to be reformed and implemented to sanction all forms of GBV and to provide survivors with access to justice...") and interpersonal communication ("...[P]roviders need to be trained to identify women living with violence, and to respond with appropriate care and referrals, making sure not to put women at increased risk for violence through their actions...").

Reflecting this backdrop, as detailed here, Puntos de Encuentro and Raising Voices have been honing strategies that engage people to talk about and take action against GBV and HIV:

  • Puntos de Encuentro developed Sexto Sentido, a weekly television soap opera broadcast in several Central American countries and soon in Bolivia that presents issues of violence, gender equality and inequality, sexuality, and HIV through the life and relationships of various characters who are straight, gay, transgender, male, and female. In some communities, the messages on the show are reinforced through a nightly radio call-in programme and through education packs that are disseminated by peer educators in schools, youth camps, and other community settings. "Evaluation of the program identified a significant reduction of stigmatizing and gender-inequitable attitudes, an increase in knowledge and use of HIV-related services, and a significant increase in interpersonal communication about HIV prevention and sexual behavior..."
  • Raising Voices, which works throughout East, Central, and Southern Africa, uses a 4-phase process called SASA! (meaning "Now!" in Swahili) to mobilise communities against GBV and HIV. The phases include: 1) getting people to start thinking about GBV and HIV; 2) raising awareness about how communities accept men's use of power over women; 3) fostering solidarity amongst women, men, and activists affected by or involved in preventing GBV and HIV; and 4) harnessing the community's power to prevent GBV and HIV by engaging local leaders, police, journalists, health personnel, and religious leaders.

Interviews in March 2010 with personnel from these organisations revealed various strategies and lessons learned; examples are provided. In summary:

  • " change attitudes, the issues of GBV and HIV must become real for people by seeing the effects on someone they know or to whom they can relate. In other words, to internalize the links between GBV and HIV, one must perceive and critically think about the benefits and consequences for him- or herself and the surrounding community, rather than a distant societal problem."
  • "...get people to focus on what they can do instead of what they cannot do - looking at the strength in people and the assets in the community, rather than focusing on the problem alone."
  • " to get people to act on their increased knowledge and gender-equitable attitudes? Both Puntos de Encuentro and Raising Voices emphasize that one source - be it a television show in the case of the former, or a SASA! workshop in the latter - is not enough to get people to take action. Both programs support activists to spread messages about human rights in relation to sexual health - including GBV - in schools, in the media, in religious institutions, and venues in the community on a long-term basis."

"New in Gender - The Latest Resources from AIDSTAR-One", sent from AIDSTAR-One to The Communication Initiative on November 10 2010.