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Caribbean coalition to combat violence against women and HIV.

Violence against women is increasing women's and girls' vulnerability to HIV in the Caribbean region. This stark message emerged from the March 4 launch of the Caribbean Coalition on Women, Girls and AIDS (CCWA) by the UNAIDS Caribbean Regional Support Team in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

Sexual violence against women and girls is pervasive in the Caribbean. According to a regional study, 47% of adolescent girls' first sexual experience was "forced" or "somewhat forced" (Halcon, Beuhring & Blum, 2000). Violence or the threat of violence increases women's vulnerability to HIV by making it difficult or impossible to negotiate safer sex and condom use. It also affects women's expectations in relationships and can also stop women from accessing HIV prevention, care and treatment services.

The CCWA, a broad coalition of women from diverse backgrounds pledged to vigorously challenge not just violence against women but all aspects of female vulnerability to HIV. The First Lady of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Her Excellency, Dr. Jean Ramjohn-Richards, a member of the CCWA, attended the launch as did Yolanda Simon, Director of the Caribbean Regional Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (CRN+), founding member and advocate of the CCWA.

According to Roberta Clarke, Regional Programme Director of UNIFEM, much more needs to be done to transform unequal and harmful gender relations among women, men, boys and girls, as this culture of inequality is a root cause of women's vulnerability to HIV. "We know that the Caribbean is an unsafe space for women. Several Caribbean countries have amongst the highest homicide rates and all have higher than global averages of sexual violence, with three countries having amongst the top ten highest rates," said Ms Clarke. The CCWA hopes to play an important role in drawing attention to the persistence of inequality and violence and in advocating social transformations consistent with the full respect for women's human rights.

The CCWA has been supported by the UNAIDS Caribbean Regional Support Team, along with UNIFEM and regional civil society organizations including CRN+, the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA) and the Centre for Gender and Development Studies (CGDS) for 15 months leading up to the official launch. This support will continue in 2009 during, which time the Coalition will be hosted by UNIFEM with continued assistance from UNAIDS.

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Article Details
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Publication:Women's Health Journal
Geographic Code:50CAR
Date:Jan 1, 2009
Previous Article:Challenges, strategies and ways forward for feminism.
Next Article:Fifteen years later ... the debt to women and girls continues.

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