The Saartjie Baartman Centre for Abused Woman and Children have expressed their dire concern at the number of increased risk of HIV infection in relation to intimate partner violence. There will be increased awareness of this issue in STI and Condom Week, which runs from the 10th until the 16th of February. The Pregnancy Awareness Week runs from the 8th till the 14th of February.
Social worker and shelter manager at the centre Dorothea Gertse said that women who find themselves in violent relationships are often denied condom use.
“These women have no right or control of their relationships. The perpetrator is in complete control. If the perpetrator decides condom use will not be part of their relationship then the woman has no right,” she said.
“She will be forced to have intimate relationship with him without a condom and if she tries to negotiate or tries to have a conversation around this then she will be beaten up or will be raped.”
Gertse explains that in many cases due to the abuse the woman take substances escape the circumstance.
“At the Saartjie Baartman centre we see this every day. Almost 9 out of 10 of the woman that come to centre are abusing substances. For many years they have tried everything else and they end up taking to this numb the fear and numb the pain. She gets addicted to that and it ends up becoming part of her lifestyle.”
According to research conducted, the number of females infected with the HIV virus was four times higher than that reported in men. The results from this also revealed the fact that younger woman were having sex with older men.
Gerste suggests that the reason this could be the case is due to the lack of role models.
“It comes down to a case of not having father figures, role models and often poverty. These men who have money and the ability to buy these girls what they need, are the girls that can’t negotiate condom use. The perpetrator would say if you want clothes, food and money to run your house then you can’t sleep with me with a condom,” she exclaimed.
Identifying the severity of the problem, Gertse has urged woman who are in these relationships to seek help.
“We need to encourage those women to reach out for help. In those relationships they have no power. These women need external help. I would like to encourage them to reach out to us and other organisations,” she pleaded.
Gertse also added that woman may call in anonymously if they like to seek help if they are in these dominated relationships.
The Saartjie Baartman centre is based in Manenberg Cape Town and they can be contacted on 021 633 5278 for assistance.