Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women; the start of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.
Sophia Forum are taking this opportunity to launch their campaign ‘Walk in Our Knickers’ to highlight the fact that women living with HIV are twice as likely to have been or be affected by gender violence. ‘Walk in Our Knickers’ aims to raise awareness, advocate for improved practice and prompt responses from policy makers and government.
There has been increasing evidence over recent years that has shown connections between gender based violence and the acquisition of HIV or increased intimate partner violence post diagnosis. 
Gender based violence is a common experience shared by many women living with HIV but rarely talked about. WalkinOurKnickers aims to bring together women from all walks of life to share their experiences and to join together in calling for action to address violence in all its forms.
- Intimate partner violence and sexual violence against women are major public health problems and violations of human rights. They result in serious short- and long-term physical, sexual and reproductive, and mental health problems, including increased vulnerability to HIV. Between 15–71% of women experience physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lives.
- Over a quarter of women (28.3%) have experienced domestic abuse since aged 16, in England and Wales with an incidence of 8.5% of women affected in a 1 year period. In Scotland, 17% of women report partner abuse since age 16.
- HIV diagnosis can act as a specific trigger for violence. It can expose women to new settings of HIV related violence, including within healthcare institutions, in relation to sexual and reproductive health. Women report judgmental provider attitudes, assumptions, involuntary disclosure and breaches of confidentiality. 
- HIV status can be used by partners or acquaintances to establish both financial and emotional power within relationships 
- Migrant women living with HIV who reside on a spousal visa can face financial and social dependence on those who perpetrate gender based violence / intimate partner violence
- 19% worldwide of all Trans women are living with HIV. 
Sophie Strachan, Trustee of the Sophia Forum said: Every day globally many women and children will experience some form of violence. For everyday of inaction another life is lost and another woman lives in fear and isolation. Gender inequality fuels the increasing rise of violence, and yet still, we as women tirelessly campaign for better policies, increased funding and improved practice. Please support our campaign to educate others and inform policy makers of steps that need to be taken to ensure safe spaces and essential advocacy can be provided.
The Sophia Forum are asking people to share their messages of support or experiences of living with HIV to display on knickers by tweeting @SophiaForum using the #walkinourknickers or send your message of support to [email protected]
If you are a member of an organisation or group who would like to be sent some knickers so you can contribute to our physical knicker line please email us at [email protected]
NOTES TO EDITORS
Sophia Forum is the only charity in the UK that solely promotes and advocates the rights, health, welfare and dignity of women living with HIV through research, raising awareness and influencing policy.
They do this through:
- Developing and delivering our advocacy programme
- Bringing together information and research on the issues affecting women living with HIV
- Creating partnerships with organisations and individuals delivering services
- Building relationships with policy makers
Sophia Forum makes sure that women living with HIV are meaningfully involved in all their work.
Many current Sophia Forum supporters are individuals active in development, research, health and HIV charities. Others contribute their experience in business, law and education.
Sophia Forum are part of the UNAIDS Global Coalition on Women and AIDS and their work covers women living with HIV in the UK and around the world.
The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) Crime Statistics Focus on Violent Crime and Sexual Offences, 2013/14. Office for National Statistics (released 12 February 2015)