Recognizing the Connection between HIV and Domestic Violence

October marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Over the course of the month, events occur in communities around the country, to bring to light both the pervasiveness and effects of domestic violence. TWC will be participating in awareness raising events in the coming weeks, such as Purple Thursday, where members of our office will wear purple to show support for survivors of domestic violence.

We believe we have an important role in supporting and advocating for survivors of domestic violence, because of the intersection between HIV and domestic violence. In fact, we identify gender based violence as one of our five policy priorities, which guide our policy and advocacy work. Gender based violence is identified as one of our policy priorities, as it effects the health of women living with or at risk for HIV.

For example, women living with HIV in the United States experience intimate partner violence at a rate that is double that experienced by all women in the United States. This violence leads to HIV infection, and vice versa.  Women who are abused by their partner fear condom negotiation and report more unprotected sex, a risk factor for HIV. Additionally, women who are HIV positive have experienced violence when disclosing their HIV status to their partner. Further, violence has been linked to a greater chance of antiretroviral therapy failure among women living with HIV.

With this research in mind, it is clear that domestic violence can have a substantial effect on the health and well-being of women living with and at risk for HIV infection. To best address this link, we recommend that a focus be placed on trauma informed care, so that HIV care providers can best recognize and support HIV positive patients who are survivors of violence. Additionally, we recommend resources to promote healthy relationships, beginning with educating youth on healthy relationships and providing resources to support violence free relationships throughout life. During all months of the year, but especially during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we call on policy makers and advocates to continue to push for resources that support violence-free relationships for all.

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