Violence Against Women Contributes to Spread of HIV in Ghana, Study Says
Violence against women in northern Ghana increases their vulnerability to HIV/AIDS, according to a study recently released by ActionAID Ghana, Public Agenda reports. For the study -- titled "Violence and HIV/AIDS: The Interface, Voices of Women in Northern Ghana" -- researchers led by Yaa Peprah Agyemang Amekudzi examined the association between violence against women and HIV/AIDS in six districts of northern Ghana. According to the report, HIV transmission sometimes can occur as a result of sexual violence. In addition, "Fear of violence prevents women from negotiating safe sex," Amekudzi said, adding that HIV-positive women often face additional stigma and violence, sometimes leading them to pursue commercial sex work. According to Amekudzi, violence against women and HIV can negatively impact social, economic and political development because it affects women as caregivers and financial supporters of their families. According to Public Agenda, of the approximately 33 million HIV-positive people worldwide in 2007, 15.4 million were women.
According to the report, violence against women can occur as a result of misinformation and misinterpretation of religious and cultural practices. In addition, "Poverty and lack of formal education were also identified as being used to perpetuate violence against women," Amekudzi said. The study determined that current HIV efforts are insufficient to stem the high HIV prevalence among girls and women in Northern Ghana, adding that female condom use is minimal in three northern regions because women do not make decisions about their use. The study recommends that the government provide housing and services for survivors of violence and people living with HIV/AIDS, and that religious groups support these populations. The report adds that indicators should be used to track awareness levels about HIV and domestic violence. Adwoa Kwateng-Kluvitse, country director of ActionAID, said that power dynamics must be addressed before Ghana can reduce domestic violence and HIV prevalence. She added that the organization is "working on building and strengthening the voice" of HIV-positive people with an aim "to increase their access to information and skills, especially the vulnerable ones" (Amankwah, Public Agenda, 12/15).