UNAIDS partners in new Clinton Global Initiative to address sexual violence against girls

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UNAIDS partners in new Clinton Global Initiative to address sexual violence against girls

25 September 2009

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UNAIDS and cosponsors UNICEF, UNFPA and WHO have joined the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNIFEM and private sector supporters through the Clinton Global Initiative to address the injustices and health impact of sexual violence against girls. The initiative, launched in New York by the partners, will focus on countries where sexual violence is a key initiation point for the spread of HIV and other infectious diseases.

Partners of the initiative will come together to conduct research in seven countries using the methodology piloted in Swaziland in 2007 by UNICEF and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In collaboration with World Health Organization, UNICEF and CDC will use the survey results to develop a technical package of policy and social interventions, tailored individually for the countries in southern Africa, Asia and the Pacific regions.

 “While it is generally known that sexual violence against girls is a global problem, very limited data exist on the extent of this problem in the developing world. Obtaining valid data is a key step toward mobilizing policy and other positive interventions,” said Dr. Rodney Hammond, Director of the Division of Violence Prevention in CDC’s Injury Center.

“Sexual violence against children is a gross violation of their rights, a moral and ethical outrage and an assault on the world’s conscience,” said Ann M. Veneman, Executive Director of UNICEF. “Sexual abuse can lead to lost childhoods, abandoned education, physical and emotional problems, the spread of HIV, and an often irrevocable loss of dignity and self-esteem.”

“Sexual violence against girls increases their vulnerability to HIV infection and must be stopped,” said Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS, Executive Director. “AIDS responses must include programmes to stop sexual violence as an integral part of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.” 

2007 Swaziland survey

In 2007 CDC, UNICEF and several local institutions partnered to implement a national survey on violence against girls and young women in Swaziland. Swaziland has the highest prevalence of HIV among adults globally. The survey showed that approximately one-third of girls had a history of sexual violence.

This survey led to a series of policy and legislative interventions in the country, including establishment of the nation’s first Sexual Offenses Unit for children, and a push for legislation against domestic violence and sexual offences.

According to WHO, in 2002 approximately 150 million girls experienced some form of sexual violence. Research demonstrates that violence occurring early in life affects neurological and cognitive functioning, and triggers multiple negative impacts, including sexual disease transmission, drug and alcohol abuse and psychological distress.

Stopping violence against women and girls

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and UNICEF are the lead organizations in new this initiative, with partners including the CDC Foundation, the Nduna Foundation, Grupo ABC, WHO, UNAIDS, UNFPA and UNIFEM.

Stopping violence against women and girls is one of the nine priority areas of UNAIDS as described in the UNAIDS Outcome Framework (2009-2011). UNAIDS with its cosponsors will leverage the AIDS response as an opportunity to reduce sexual violence and support the initiative partners’ efforts to develop comprehensive responses to sexual violence and HIV prevention and treatment within and beyond the health sector. UNAIDS will provide funding to support this issue.

Clinton Global Initiative

The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) has served as the central convening body for bringing together the lead organizations and key partners. CGI venues served as the critical link for engaging new partners and it has also served as the key forum for the steering committee overseeing this effort, and as a mobilizing force for raising public awareness and leadership commitment.

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé has been in New York this week for a series of events and meetings.