Roe Vs Wade and what it means for HIV

A woman stands with her arms crossed Frontline AIDS/Corrie Wingate/2017

Frontline AIDS denounces in the strongest terms the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs Wade. We stand in solidarity with our fellow sexual and reproductive rights advocates in the USA, with the American states and providers that are doing all they can to keep abortion services open. And most of all, we stand with women and girls in need of essential abortion-related care.

By removing the constitutional right to safe abortion, this calculated attack on girls’ and women’s bodies and rights rolls back almost 50 years of progress and decades of human rights activism. It will have far reaching implications in and beyond America’s borders, particularly on women of colour, and on those who are already marginalised and at risk of violence and of acquiring HIV.

Christine Stegling, Executive Director, Frontline AIDS says: “Women and girls will not stop having abortions. Criminalising choice just cruelly exposes them to unsafe abortions. Gender inequality is a key driver of new HIV infections, and we will not sit back and permit an erosion of rights that undermines our efforts to end AIDS. The fight goes on and our activism to end AIDS and achieve sexual and reproductive rights for all will continue.”

Frontline AIDS is also conscious, based on past experience, that the HIV response will not be left unscathed by this decision. Research we undertook in 2018 showed how the reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule in 2016 disrupted HIV programmes and compromised access to lifesaving HIV services, with a significant impact on most marginalised populations including sex workers and men who have sex with men.

We are deeply concerned that this development could again see Frontline AIDS and our partners forced to make impossible choices between providing abortion-related care and human rights based sexual and reproductive health services, or refusing US funding for HIV prevention and treatment. It also sets a worrying precedent for other countries and opens the door to a revocation of other hard-won gains on civil rights, including same sex marriage legislation.

We call on President Biden’s administration to:

  • Mitigate the impact of Roe vs Wade for all women in America and protect other civil rights, including legislation that protects same-sex marriage and LGBT+ rights.

Recognising the potential knock-on effects on the HIV response, honour the US government’s commitment to double the annual investment by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief in DREAMS, which supports programmes focused on economic strengthening, gender-based violence (GBV) prevention, post-GBV care, and sexual and reproductive health services in Haiti and 14 African countries..

  • To fulfil the promises made by the US delegation during the Generation Equality Summit last year including policy and resource commitments to:
    • Prevent and respond to all forms of gender-based violence; in specific the promise to create the first U.S. National Action Plan on Gender-Based Violence, led by the White House Gender Policy Council, to be launched in 2022. This plan will establish a whole-of-government approach to preventing and addressing GBV domestically and globally, with significant input from civil society. Given the Supreme Court’s decision, it is critical that the US government now recognises that prevention of abortion is a form of gender-based violence, and commits to action on it in the context of this plan.
    • Strengthen women’s economic security; and
    • Protect and advance sexual and reproductive health and rights and reverse the effects of the harmful Mexico City Policy, among other actions.