Campaign Alert: #AbortionStigma and Women Living with HIV

Roughly 35.3 million people are currently living with HIV/AIDS, where women constitute more than half of all people living with the virus worldwide, and young women make up 64% of all new infections among young people.[1] [2] [3] While some progress has been made in addressing the misinformation and stigma surrounding HIV, people living with the virus continue to face mistreatment, discrimination, and ostracism, especially in the Global South, where support for the rights of women living with HIV remains particularly uneven, and where women living with the virus may face even more stigma and discrimination than men.[4] [5]

Women and girls living with HIV are particularly vulnerable to human rights violations when attempting to access sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services, including voluntary safe abortion. Not only do they confront the abortion stigma experienced by all individuals who need and seek abortions, they also face additional stigma as a result of their HIV status, due in part to misconceptions that surround the virus and perpetuate the ill-informed belief that HIV positive individuals should not be sexually active and/or have children.

Because of these intersecting stigmas, women and girls living with HIV experience significant rights violations in healthcare settings, among them: discriminatory and humiliating treatment; refusal of service providers to provide accurate and comprehensive information and services; forced sterilization and abortion; breaches of consent and confidentiality; physical and emotional violence and abuse; and punitive denial of services, including access to voluntary safe abortion.[6] [7] As a result of receiving substandard or harmful healthcare, in turn, women living with HIV are often deterred from further seeking and receiving needed services, which if faced with an unwanted pregnancy increases their likelihood of undertaking a clandestine and unsafe abortion.[8] [9]

These human rights violations have been experienced by HIV affected women and girls worldwide, affronting their dignity and degrading their personhood. States must uphold theircommitments as established in numerous intergovernmental agreements, and ensure that women and girls living with HIV are able to fully exercise universal sexual and reproductive rights, including the right to choose whether to have children, and the right to safe, legal, and voluntary abortion services.

This September 28, join us in speaking out against abortion stigma, as we call on governments to eliminate systemic and institutionalized violence in healthcare settings, and ensure that all individuals, including women and girls living with HIV, are able to fully exercise their rights and control all aspects of their sexual and reproductive lives!



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