Rape During Conflict ‘Becoming Genocidal’ in Countries With High HIV/AIDS Prevalence, Opinion Piece Says
Although rape as a "weapon of war has existed for as long as war itself," it is "rapidly becoming genocidal" because survivors often are infected with sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, especially in countries "torn by tribal or ethic conflict" that have high HIV/AIDS prevalence rates, Cesar Chelala, an international health care consultant, writes in a Philadelphia Inquirer opinion piece. Many of the countries in which rape occurs on a wide scale do not have basic health care services or access to medications, meaning that HIV/AIDS is "virtually a death sentence," Chelala says, adding that rape is used as a "brutal way to show or maintain dominance." There are thousands of rape survivors in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where approximately 60% of combatants are HIV-positive, and 67% of rape survivors in Rwanda are living with HIV, according to Women's Equity in Access to Care and Treatment, Chelala says. The consequences of rape go "far beyond HIV/AIDS," because many rape survivors are impregnated, killed, "forced to become sex slaves" or rejected by their husbands, families and communities, according to Chelala. Rape survivors should be provided with antiretroviral drugs and counseling, and the United Nations and Western governments should support the international commission of inquiry into human rights violations in Sudan by Amnesty International, Chelala says, concluding, "Only with rapid action and widespread political support do we have a chance of diminishing the barbaric impact of rape as a tool of war" (Chelala, Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/8).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.