Protecting the Sexual and Reproductive Rights of Women Living with HIV

12.1.10 - On this World AIDS Day, the Center is urging governments to protect the sexual and reproductive rights of women living with HIV. Significant progress has been made in the last decade in response to the HIV pandemic and its recognition as a human rights issue. However, women living with HIV/AIDS still face a myriad of violations to their sexual and reproductive rights, which are often neglected in the programs and policies addressing the pandemic. 

HIV-Positive Women in Chile Sterilized without Their Consent

Our recent report, Dignity Denied: Violations of the Rights of HIV-Positive Women in Chilean Health Facilities, reveals the pervasive human rights violations suffered by women living with HIV in Chile, including forced sterilizations.

Chile is far from unique: the forced sterilization of HIV-positive women has been documented worldwide, from Mexico to South Africa.

Our report aims to confront the impunity surrounding this horrific practice by clearly showing forced sterilization to be a form of torture or cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.

On October 26, we brought further attention to the plight of HIV-positive women in the Americas at a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which we helped to organize.

The Center, together with its Chilean partner Vivo Positivo, has also brought a case before IACHR on behalf of a young HIV-positive woman from southern Chile who was sterilized without her consent while giving birth. F.S. v. Chile is the first time this regional human rights body has been asked to rule on the forced sterilization of a woman living with HIV.

HIV Rates Reflect Racial Disparities in the United States

In the United States, meanwhile, disparities in access to reproductive and sexual healthcare and to medically accurate sex education are paralleled by persistent racial disparities in HIV rates. 

Together, African American women and Latinas account for 80% of reported female HIV/AIDS diagnoses, even though they represent only 25% of the U.S. female population.

Earlier this year, the Center raised these issues in a report to the United Nations Human Rights Council, which reviewed the United States’ human rights track record on November 5.

Governments Must Protect the Reproductive Rights of HIV-Positive Women

These assaults on the human rights and dignity of HIV-positive women are intolerable. Governments must take immediate action to end all such abuses and ensure that women living with HIV are able to receive the reproductive healthcare they need and retain control over what happens to their bodies.