CATIE News – Domestic violence against HIV-positive women and its impact on their health


Several terms are used by researchers who study violence against women committed by men who are their partners. Examples of such terms include the following:

  • domestic violence
  • gender-based violence
  • intimate partner violence (IPV)

The United States Institute of Medicine (IOM) now recommends that healthcare professionals screen and counsel all women for IPV.

Past research in sub-Saharan Africa, India and the U.S. has found that IPV is a risk factor for women acquiring HIV. However, little research has been done to explore the impact of IPV on the health of HIV-positive women.

Now researchers in Calgary, Alberta, have conducted a study to assess the presence of IPV among HIV-positive women as well as its impact on their health. Their findings are distressing¬—IPV is common, reported by 40% of HIV-positive women in the region’s major clinic. Furthermore, HIV-positive women who disclosed IPV had worse health and quality of life compared to other HIV-positive women who did not report IPV. Indeed, HIV-positive women who reported IPV were more likely to have been hospitalized even after initiating care for HIV.

The present study has uncovered a high rate of IPV among HIV-positive women and documented a link to increased hospitalization in affected women. Hospital stays arising from any cause, including IPV, are costly for the healthcare system. These factors should encourage policy planners and regional health departments to intensify programs to help prevent IPV and treat women, particularly those with HIV, affected by abuse. By building a trusting relationship with HIV-positive women, healthcare providers can help engage these women into care and improve the women’s overall health and well-being.

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