CRR Spotlights Abuses against HIV+ Women in Chile

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On June 21, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Chilean HIV/AIDS group VIVO POSITIVO will present the findings of the report Dignity Denied: Violations of the Rights of HIV Positive Women in Chilean Health Facilities at the University of Chile Law School in Santiago.

Abused inside the walls of the very institutions which should be havens, HIV-positive Chilean women face the threat of coerced sterilization, stigmatization, and discriminatory treatment, according to the report Dignity Denied, which was released in October 2010.

Social and cultural factors increase Chilean women’s vulnerability to HIV infection. The widespread resistance to condom use, perception that women are subordinate to men and association of women with maternal roles are among the influences which heighten their risk of exposure. Lack of education regarding sexual and reproductive rights and a deep seeded stigma against HIV/AIDS constitute factors that often subject HIV-positive Chilean women to abuse and neglect.

Francisca*, a Chilean woman interviewed for the report, shared her experience of being sterilized without her consent during a Cesarean section. “They treated me like I was less than a person. It was not my decision to end my fertility, they took it away from me.” The systemic nature of abuse prompted the Center and VIVO POSITIVO to file the case F.S. v Chile before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on Francisca’s behalf in 2009.

"A woman who has tested positive for HIV has just as much of a right as any other woman to decide what's best for her health and her life, and to be treated with respect and dignity," said Lilian Sepúlveda, international deputy director at the Center. "Chile may be making great strides forward in the economic sphere, but this report shows that economic development and respect for women's rights do not necessarily go hand in hand."

The recommendations issued by Dignity Denied highlight the need for vigilance, advocacy, and increased awareness of the reproductive rights of HIV-positive women in international, regional and national spheres. The Center and VIVO POSITIVO aim to engage civil society, policy makers, the legal community, students and the general public through the upcoming presentation and discussion.

*The name has been changed to protect the woman’s confidentiality.