The Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Information Dissemination Service (SAFAIDS) says Gender Based Violence (GBV) is too costly to ignore in HIV responses
This the organisation uttered when SAFAIDS Lesotho hosted a webinar under the SAfAIDS Power of Communities V-Chat series.
‘Mamofota Kale SAFAIDS Country Focal Person said GBV is one of the root courses for HIV prevalence in many countries and Lesotho is not an exception.
Her words are confirmed different studies which indicated that there is a strong link between GBV, gender equality and HIV infections either directly or indirectly.
“…Therefore it critical for countries to address GBV in HIV response strategies and activities,” she said.
“Most people affected by GBV are women and girls in as much as men and boys are also affected,” she said.
She indicated that, for Lesotho as a country, to meet its commitments at a global level, it cannot be speaking of ending HIV by 2030 without addressing issues of GBV which include child marriages, human trafficking and all the things that deny women to access their Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) services or HIV services.
Limpho Mokhachane, the Director of Mantsopa Institute also stressed that GBV is an enabler.
“We do address HIV without making sure that there is integration of GBV messaging within all our interventions.”
Mokhochane said there was a time when the institute was addressing food insecurity and it was linked with GBV as well as HIV.
“Lesotho is now facing a lot of new HIV infections, early and unintended pregnancies and what comes back is that, if we were only supposed to address HIV, we would be missing out on the fact that a lot of young girls are still subjected to sexual and physical abuse by their intimate partners which leads to infections,” she said.
She said the country needs clinical preparedness offering various services such as psychosocial and access to post exposure prophylaxis in hard to reach areas.
According to the AIDSFree Program Note of April 2019, various types of GBV contribute to the spread of HIV.
It indicated that woman who are subjected to economic abuse may turn to transactional sex to support her children, and HIV infection may occur through sexual assault.
AIDSFree’s interventions in Lesotho focus on combating attitudes and norms that enable GBV and establishing referral pathways so survivors can access post-GBV care.
According to Afrobarometer survey, Gender-based violence (GBV) is a reality for many women in Lesotho.
“The Police Child and Gender Protection Unit reports that from January through July 2022, there have been 184 sexual offences and 45 assault cases perpetrated against women.”
The study indicated that GBV is a serious threat to the nation both developmentally and economically, recognised as one of the drivers of HIV in a country that has the third-highest prevalence rate in the world at 23.2 percent (UNAIDS, 2021).