The President's memorandum on the recently established Working Group on the Intersection of HIV/AIDS, Violence Against Women and Girls, and Gender-related Health Disparities summarizes the mission and functions of the new Working Group and outlines the responsibilities of the individual agencies involved.
The memo commits the Working Group to improving data collection, research, intervention strategies, and training to better understand and address the intersection of HIV/AIDS, violence against women and girls, and gender-related health disparities in the United States. The stated efforts will include integrating sexual and reproductive health services, gender-based violence services, and HIV/AIDS services for women and girls, increasing public and government awareness of the needs of women and girls affected by HIV and violence, and facilitate opportunities for partnerships among diverse organizations to address these issues.
The Working Group will be co-chaired by Dr. Grant Colfax, Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP) and Lynn Rosenthal, the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women. The memo identifies agencies that will play a primary role in the Working Group: the Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of the Interior (DOI), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of Education (DOE), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
The memo rightly highlights the importance of prioritizing the needs of women and girls of color, who represent the majority of females living with and at risk for HIV infection in the U.S. While it loosely calls for gender-sensitive health care for women and girls and suggests the development of gender-specific targeted research, the memo falls short in key ways: it fails to specifically address how the Working Group will be inclusive of transgender women; it does not provide a clear time frame for implementation or reporting on outcomes; and it does not explicitly commit to developing gender-sensitive care for women or targeted research efforts on women's needs, with all data disaggregated by sex and gender.