Today Is Our 4th Annual Day of Action to End Violence Against Women Living with HIV. Here’s What You Can Do.

October 23, 2017


  • Women living with HIV are twice as likely to experience intimate partner violence (IPV) and five times as likely to experience lifetime sexual assault as the general population of women.
  • Data also shows that women of trans experience, who are the population most affected by HIV in the U.S., are at elevated risk for violent hate crimes, which all too often are deadly.
  • Disclosure of HIV status can increase vulnerability to violence, including tragic situations where women with HIV have been murdered following disclosure of their HIV status.

Continue reading “Today Is Our 4th Annual Day of Action to End Violence Against Women Living with HIV. Here’s What You Can Do.”

On Third Day of Action to End Violence Against Women Living with HIV, PWN-USA Demands End to Criminalization & Other Forms of Structural Violence

OCTOBER 21: Women with HIV simultaneously live with the effects of trauma resulting from interpersonal, community, and institutional violence. Studies have shown that the lifelong and compounding effects of these different forms of violence may have consequences far deadlier than the virus itself. October 23, Positive Women’s Network – USA (PWN-USA), along with dozens of endorsing organizations, will observe our third Day of Action to End Violence Against Women Living with HIV, releasing a factsheet highlighting the many forms of violence impacting women living with HIV and their communities, with a special focus on criminalization, discriminatory law enforcement practices and other forms of

Teresa Sullivan, PWN-USA Philadelphia Senior Member, displays city proclamation

structural violence, and to offer solutions and ways that government, institutions and organizations can help prevent and mitigate violence and trauma. We will also be hosting a Twitter chat Monday, Oct. 24, at 2 PM ET/11 AM PT to look at the promise of trauma-informed care for women living with HIV as a means to healing the trauma that is far too often a barrier to retention in care (follow the hashtags #pwnspeaks and #EndVAWHIV). Community events are also being held in various cities, and members in Philadelphia and Houston secured proclamations from their cities declaring October 23 the Day of Action to End Violence Against Women Living with HIV.

Laws criminalizing people living with HIV (PLHIV) disproportionately affect over-policed communities, including women of color (who make up 80% of the epidemic among women) and women of trans* experience. Harassment and brutality by police and law enforcement create hostile environments that perpetuate trauma in communities of color and other communities significantly impacted by HIV. Consequently, for the 2016 National Day of Action to End Violence Against Women Living with HIV, PWN-USA demands:
  • Repeal and reform of laws criminalizing HIV exposure, non-disclosure and transmission
  • An end to law enforcement practices that target communities disproportionately impacted by HIV, including people of trans and gender nonconforming experience (TGNC), sex workers, people who use drugs, immigrants, people who are unstably housed, people with mental illness, and communities of color
  • An end to stigmatizing and discriminatory interactions, methods of surveillance and brutalization of PLHIV and communities impacted by HIV at the hands of law enforcement
  • Elimination of barriers to safe, stable, and meaningful reintegration into the community for those returning home from jail and prison, those with criminal convictions, and the loved ones who support them.
PWN-USA called for the first Day of Action in 2014 in response to several high-profile murders of women following disclosure of their HIV status. Last year, community events were held in at least 18 cities, as well as a Twitter chat with 228 participants that reached 1.6 million people. 18 blog posts and statements were submitted by individuals and organizations in honor of the Day of Action. PWN-USA hopes this year’s day of action will continue to raise awareness, put forward solutions and mobilize advocates to push for meaningful change to end structural and institutional violence in the form of criminalization of our communities.

Help Make Trauma-Informed Care the Next Legacy of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program


Contact: Jennie Smith Camejo, / 347.553.5174

October 19, 2015 – Want trauma-informed care to be the next legacy of the Ryan White Program? So do we! Show your organization’s support by signing on now to these recommendations for specific action on the trauma-related objectives in the new National HIV/AIDS Strategy.

Today – during Intimate Partner Violence Awareness Month, and just in time for the National Day of Action to End Violence Against Women Living with HIV – Positive Women’s Network – USA (PWN-USA) joined with the Women’s HIV Program (WHP) at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) to submit a letter to the Health Resources and Services Administration HIV/AIDS Bureau (HRSA HAB), administrators of the Ryan White Program, to recommend key implementation steps for the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (“the Strategy”). (Read the full text of PWN-USA and WHP’s letter to HRSA HAB here.)

There is a crisis of unaddressed trauma among women living with HIV,” says PWN-USA’s Executive Director Naina Khanna. A growing body of research shows that women living with HIV bear an overwhelmingly high burden of intimate-partner violence (IPV) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which negatively impacts the quality of their lives as well as their health outcomes across the HIV Care Continuum.

“In a forthcoming study looking at deaths in our program over the past decade, only 16% were due to complications of HIV/AIDS,” adds Edward L. Machtinger, MD, director of UCSF’s WHP. “The majority of the rest of these deaths were due  to the effects of trauma: directly though murder; and indirectly through substance abuse, depression, isolation, and illnesses linked to trauma like obesity, diabetes, heart, lung, and liver disease.”

When the newest version of the Strategy was released in July, it contained powerful and long-fought-for commitments to explore trauma-informed approaches to women’s HIV care. A plan for putting the full commitments of the Strategy into action is expected this December. Each federal agency responsible for carrying out goals of the Strategy is currently working on its own plan of action.

To help make sure HRSA HAB’s action plan includes critical steps to making trauma-informed care and services a reality, for women and all the more than 500,000 people living with HIV in the US engaged in Ryan White-funded services, PWN-USA and WHP’s letter to HRSA HAB outlines specific requests for action on this crucial health concern:

  1. Provide training for case managers, social workers, nurses, administrators, doctors, and other clinic professionals at Ryan White service delivery sites to use trauma-informed approaches with clients and among staff  
  2. Require Ryan White programs to collect and report data about rates of IPV and PTSD symptoms – as well as more accurate data about rates of substance use, depression, stigma, and social isolation
  3. Facilitate implementation and evaluation projects of trauma-informed primary care in at least 6 primary care clinics serving women, including transgender women, living with HIV
  4. Integrate evidence-based responses to PTSD into existing funded clinical services, including therapy, psychiatry, medication adherence, and substance abuse treatment
  5. Encourage collaborations between community-based IPV organizations and trauma recovery centers, and HIV and primary care clinics and AIDS service organizations
  6. Look for demonstrated commitment to the above factors when assessing grantee applications

Show your organization’s support for these recommendations by signing on to this form!

There are many evidence-based interventions to heal from trauma, and it is important to know that treatments for substance abuse and depression are far more effective if trauma is concurrently treated,” comments Dr. Machtinger. “Ryan White clinics need to be educated, supported, and resourced to integrate these interventions into care, and then held accountable for preventable trauma-related deaths.”

Earlier this year, PWN-USA and WHP teamed with provider-researchers from UCSF to publish a peer-reviewed article to help providers incorporate trauma-informed care into clinical practice. PWN-USA and WHP are far from alone in calling for trauma-informed approaches, nor would HRSA HAB be alone on the federal stage in implementing them. Last year, the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released a guide for implementing trauma-informed care; trauma-informed methods are also being used by providers at the US Department of Veterans Affairs with clients who are homeless and who have survived wars. And just last month, the Federal Partners Committee on Women and Trauma convened the Building a Trauma-Informed Nation Summit, which brought together community leaders (including Naina Khanna of PWN-USA) from across sectors to discuss strategies for securing trauma-informed practice within as well as outside the realm of health services.

HRSA HAB is in a unique and optimal position to serve as a beacon in this movement to expand trauma awareness and healing, and to profoundly improve the lives of individuals and communities impacted by HIV,” says Khanna. HRSA HAB can make this possible by creating a bold action plan to implement trauma-informed practice, with measurable goals and outcomes. The success of this National HIV/AIDS Strategy is predicated on successful adherence to treatment and engagement in care. For many people living with HIV, that will not be possible without addressing the trauma in their lives.  So many of the deaths today are preventable, and any preventable trauma-related death in a Ryan White program will increasingly come to be seen as the result of inaction.”

In the words of the first Strategy’s Implementation Plan, from 2010: “The National HIV/AIDS Strategy is just a collection of words on paper, unless it provides a strategic vision for the country that leads to action.” In observing this year’s Day of Action to End Violence Against Women with HIV this week, we urge community members to share this statement, spread the word, and keep your eyes on PWN-USA’s website. Organizations can also show their agreement with PWN-USA’s recommendations to HRSA by signing onto the form below.

HRSA is at the helm of a life-expanding source of high-quality care for communities living with HIV that was itself a pioneer in the field of comprehensive, community responsive health services. We look forward to collaborating with HRSA to help make trauma-informed care the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program’s next great innovation.

To sign your organization on to this statement, click this link or use the form below.

Join the 2nd Annual Day of Action to End Violence Against Women with HIV, October 23, 2015


Contact: Naina Khanna, / 510-681-1169

August 31, 2015 – For women living with HIV, trauma and violence are often deadlier than the virus. Join Positive Women’s Network – USA (PWN-USA), the premier voice of women leaders with HIV in the US, in saying ENOUGH! to the epidemic of violence against women with HIV. You’re invited to sign on as a partner or endorser for the second annual National Day of Action to End Violence Against Women Living with HIV!

Official logo for the Day of Action.

On October 23, 2014, during Intimate Partner Violence Awareness Month, PWN-USA spearheaded the first-ever National Day of Action to End Violence Against Women Living with HIV (Day of Action) to respond to the high rates of interpersonal violence, abuse, and systemic brutality faced by women living with HIV – including several high-profile brutal murders of women because of their HIV-positive status. We joined with well over a dozen endorsing organizations to raise our voices in support of women with HIV of all gender identities and sexual expressions who face violence, and to demand solutions.

From local ruckus-raisings to educational events and a webinar featuring federal partners, 2014’s Day of Action was a tremendous success.  Since last year’s Day of Action, PWN-USA and the UCSF Women’s HIV Program jointly released a model of trauma-informed primary care useful for providers serving women living with HIV.

This October 23, the Day of Action’s impact and influence will be even broader – and you can help! Sign on early as a partner organization, bring the Day of Action to your community by organizing a virtual or in-person event, and improve culture, programs, and policy for women living with HIV.

“Last year’s events really helped to highlight policy and programmatic opportunities to address violence against women with HIV, as well as the cumulative effects of lifetime trauma,” says PWN-USA’s Executive Director, Naina Khanna. “From the White House to local Ryan White clinics and community-based organizations, we are seeing an emerging commitment to address this issue.”

Organizations that sign on as partners in the Day of Action commit to taking at least one of a number of bold actions to address violence against women with HIV on that day. As a partner, your organization name will be listed on our website, and your event or statement on the intersections of violence and HIV will be shared widely through PWN-USA’s channels. Read more about partnership and endorsement of the Day of Action

Three in every 4 women living with HIV in the US reports a history of gender-based violence, compared to 1 in 4 women in the general population. This is part of a larger context in which violence against women, especially women of color, has been normalized and accepted. The Day of Action, conceived entirely for and by women with HIV, was created to raise awareness about the effects and prevalence of violence against women living with HIV, break through the culture that keeps this issue in silence, and push for structural change, including policy changes to eliminate this disparity.

“Laws that criminalize people living with HIV and practices that perpetuate discrimination, including violations of our sexual and reproductive rights and stigmatizing portrayals of HIV in media, are part of the culture of violence against women living with HIV,” says Khanna.

On October 23, women living with HIV, as well as those who love and support them, are invited to take part in Day of Action events both online and in person, sponsored by our partner organizations as well as our nine regional chapters and independent members across the US. Stay tuned to between now and October to find out more about ways to get involved in your community as well as on social media.

“Everyone is invited to share thoughts, actions, or ideas using the hashtags #pwnspeaks and #EndVAWHIV on social media both during the event and leading up to it,” says Olivia Ford, PWN-USA’s Communications Director.

Sign on as a partner or endorser of the Day of Action TODAY! We can’t wait to work with you to end the culture of violence against women living with HIV.