July 13, 2004

VI. Conclusion

The Dominican Republic is in the middle of a growing HIV/AIDS epidemic, which is spreading faster among women than men.In this context, many women face human rights violations on at least two major fronts: in the workplace and when they use government prenatal or other health care services.In the health sector, pre- and post-test counseling is grossly insufficient, and health personnel release confidential HIV test results without authorization and deny or delay healthcare to women living with HIV.In the workplace, women workers living with HIV are fired or simply never offered a job. Many individuals living with HIV in the Dominican Republic exclude themselves from seeking work or health services because they fear stigmatization and abuse.Because women are more likely to know their HIV status, this happens more frequently to them, adding to an already unusually wide gender gap in unemployment figures.

The government has recently implemented a number of measures that contribute to the prevention of HIV/AIDS, for which it deserves praise.It has, however, failed to take women's inequality and discrimination seriously as a contributing factor to the spread of the disease, and has displayed no political will to provide redress for the rampant discrimination suffered by women workers living with HIV or AIDS, or to establish a credible and independent oversight mechanism to identify and remedy violations in the health care system.The domestic AIDS law includes sanctions for the unauthorized release of HIV test results, but these sanctions are not applied despite rampant abuse.

Reform is urgently needed to guarantee essential pre- and post-test counseling for all tested individuals, as well as stringent confidentiality measures with a zero-tolerance policy for breaches of confidentiality.If such reform is not implemented, the government's failure to protect women's rights would continue to contribute to a situation where women are blamed for bringing HIV into their relationships-with real and often disastrous consequences for their lives and those of their dependents.