May 16, 2017

South Africa sets up program to break the link between HIV and violence

Written by Lucy Westcott

This article originally appeared on Newsweek.

Miranda was four months pregnant and extremely anxious when she got her first HIV test. She had long been afraid of a positive diagnosis, and shortly after stepping into a tent offering free HIV tests at a taxi stand in central Johannesburg, her fear was confirmed.

Miranda—who asked to use a pseudonym to protect her safety and privacy—had never been tested. “[I thought], It’s not going to happen to me.… [But] part of me knew it was true. I wasn’t handling it very well.” Nor was her partner. “He would tell me that I was the one who brought [HIV] into our house and get physical with me.”

After her diagnosis, Miranda was referred to Safe and Sound, a program to reduce violence against pregnant women in South Africa, where it is disturbingly common. Most women in the program, which ended in July 2016, had never spoken to anyone about the violence they’d endured, says Abigail Hatcher, a senior researcher at the University of the Witwatersrand School of Public Health, who is also affiliated with the University of California, San Francisco.

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