As public health advocates around the globe celebrate successful responses to HIV/AIDS this World AIDS Day, officials are sharing sobering news about the disease’s incidence in Latin America. Unfortunately, the region has seen a rise in new infections, catalyzed by societal abuse of women and men who have sex with men (MSM), according to a Nov. 24 article by the Agence France-Presse.

“Our statistics clearly show that where there is violence there is HIV,” UNAIDS deputy director Luiz Lourdes said.

Lourdes referred to evidence indicating female victims of violence are perhaps 30 to 50 percent more likely to contract HIV than their non-abused peers. Such data is unfortunately extremely pertinent in Latin America, which officials say is the most dangerous region for women. According to Lourdes and Agence France-Presse, “more than 30 percent of young women in Latin America said they have suffered physical or sexual violence.”

As they face marginalization, women and MSM are less likely to participate in HIV/AIDS reduction campaigns. The former group is further disadvantaged by discriminatory societal attitudes that make attaining reproductive healthcare uncomfortable, if not impossible.

“This is a permanent problem, and it leaves a black mark on the region. Until we reduce violence and discrimination, there is no way to stop the new infections,” Loures said.

According to the article, UNAIDS records show 540,000 Latin American women had AIDS in 2016, and about 27,000 are expected to contract HIV this year.  This new infection rate is cause for concern and will hopefully prompt socially sensitive interventions that effectively target barriers to health for women and MSM.

The interconnected nature of abuse of women and HIV/AIDS is reflected by simultaneous campaigns to combat these concerning issues. Learn more about the global health community’s ongoing “16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence” movement here, and follow the #WorldAIDSDay action here. For updates about HIV/AIDS in Latin America, follow @OnusidaLatina on Twitter.

Photo courtesy/The Graduate Institute Geneva

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