THE Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) together with the UN Women, UNESCO and the National Aids Council (NAC) are hosting a tow day Virtual Capacity Training for Interfaith Network Members and Faith Based Organizations on Male Engagement for Training on Gender Based Violence and HIV.
By Michael Gwarisa
The training marks the third such event the organizations have jointly hosted in 2021 in a move meant to equip leaders from various religious and interfaith groups with knowledge around GBV and HIV issues so as to reduce the prevalence of GBV and sexual related violence in religious organizations.
Even though the church has traditionally been regarded as a safe space for both women and children In Zimbabwe, recent developments and data indicate that religious groupings and organizations continue to record cases of violence and in most cases the abuse are swept under the rug.
Giving her remarks, the UNAIDS Zimbabwe Country Director, Ms Sophia Monico said women continue to face numerous vulnerabilities that expose them to GBV and HIV infection and interfaith organisations were better positioned to help end abuse in society.
Esteemed participants, I am thrilled to meet our faith partners, champions of the HIV response from different religious groups again today. We proudly recognize the positive results of our partnership and your recent frontline activities in the areas of addressing HIV-related stigma, discrimination, acting against gender-based violence, and in bringing quality care and support to all people living with and affected by HIV, even in humanitarian settings.
“UNAIDS is at its best when it brings together government, civil society, development partners and other stakeholders to critically assess the national response to HIV and articulate a collective agenda for action. Women face vulnerabilities to HIV of women in the Zimbabwe and the barriers that they face in accessing health services. The vulnerability of women and girls to HIV in Zimbabwe is the consequence of protracted insecurity, violence and humanitarian crises compounded with toxic masculinities and negative social norms,” said Ms Monico.
She added that the impact of gender-based violence on health, productivity, economy, and social life and therefore a country’s ability to achieve its goals is documented and data has shown the inter-connection between different forms of gender-based violence and HIV through direct or indirect pathways.
“Both Gender Based Violence (GBV) and HIV exacerbate psychological, reproductive health and physiological consequences on survivors. Children are more vulnerable to both GBV and HIV. However, there exists limited data, few models and few prevention interventions and services for survivors of GBV.
“HIV programmes (testing and counselling, prevention interventions, PMTCT and care and treatment among general and key populations), systems and infrastructure (human resources, reporting, commodities), and resources (financing, human, technical capacities) have developed over the last decade. They provide an opportunity for integrating GBV prevention and response services. There can be no end of the AIDS pandemic without renewed action and accountability to end this plague of gender-based violence and the social marginalization of women.”
Tinashe Sande, the Gender Mainstreaming and Coordination Specialist with the UN Women said there was huge link between HIV infection and GBV.
“GBV is a cause and consequence of HIV as it increases the risk of HIV transmission especially among people living with HIV and key populations at higher risk of HIV infection. They are several inter-linkages that we find between GBV and HIV. Just to mention a few, GBV increases HIV risk where physical violence is used to coerce unprotected sex and reduce ability to negotiate for safe sex,” said Sande.
Meanwhile, Mrs Phyllis Manungo from the Seventh Day Adventist Church said Interfaith organizations have a role to play in ending GBV and abuse in both society and within the churches.
“As faith-based leaders, we would like people to be loving, caring and long suffering towards each other. Since we are the ones on the community, we know that loving and caring comes from the homes we come from.”