One in four HIV patients experience intimate partner violence

HIV patients, intimate partner violence
© Ponpun Tong

According to the CDC, one in four adults with HIV in the United States experience intimate partner violence – which could be anything between physical assault to stalking

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) released new data that highlights a connection between HIV patients and violence at the hands of a partner.

Firstly, what is intimate partner violence?

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is physical violence, sexual violence, stalking, or psychological harm by a current or former partner. This type of violence does not require sexual intimacy. CDC data suggests that 43 million women and 38 million men have experienced psychological aggression from their partner.

In the UK, there was an uprising against sexual harassment after Sarah Everard was murdered by a police officer. Research found that 97% of women have experienced sexual harassment, highlighting the insidious way that this kind of treatment continues – even in 2021.

Secondly, how does violence overlap with HIV?

Over 80% of new HIV infections happen in young girls in low-to-middle-income countries. These girls are exposed to early marriage, transactional sex and risky behaviours because of food insecurity – with resources being more scarce, these children end up in situations of exploitation to access food, water and medicine.

In the US, the HIV epidemic is closely linked to health inequalities. In 2018, 43% of HIV related deaths in the country happened to Black people. In Appalachia, a double-shadow pandemic unfolds. Between substance addiction and HIV, COVID-19 cleaves through communities struggling to afford medical interventions.

Touching on this vicious circle in rural areas, Dr Errol Fields, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, commented: “The racial disparities that so rapidly emerged with COVID-19 are a reminder that until these inequities are addressed, disparities in HIV and COVID-19 outcomes will persist and ending the HIV epidemic will remain elusive.”

New CDC data suggests more intervention is necessary

The data found that one in four adults with HIV experienced intimate partner violence.

When a case of intimate partner violence occurred to a HIV patient in the last 12 months, they were more likely to take behavioural risks – creating a higher chance of transmitting HIV to another person. These people were also less likely to engaged in routine HIV care, relying on emergency care services in more sporadic bursts.

The researchers found that most anti-violence intervention programmes are tailored towards heterosexual women. Women and the LBGT population are most likely to experience this kind of violence, so more programmes that address these groups could make a better impact.

35.6% of women with HIV experience intimate partner violence

The research team found differences in experiences of violence depending on race, ethnicity and age in the HIV patient population. It seems that IPV impacts 35.6% of women, 28.9% of trans people, and 23.2% of men.

Gender and sexual identity also brought their own patterns of abuse. While women with HIV experienced the highest levels of violence, bisexual women had the highest proportion of violence at 51.5% in comparison to all other sexual identities.

When HIV patients didn’t have this experience of violence in the last 12 months, they avoided riskier behaviour – binge drinking, injection drugs and transactional sex.

Read the full study here.

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