Study Links Intimate Partner Violence and Risk of HIV

January 23, 2014

This article was reported by Medical Xpress.

Medical Xpress reported that a University of Rochester and The Miriam Hospital study documented a link between intimate partner violence (IPV) and increased HIV risk for women. Although earlier studies connected male-perpetrated IPV with sexual risk factors like trading sex for money or drugs and a higher number of sexual partners, this study was the first to address why increased HIV risk was associated with IPV.

Theresa Senn, Ph.D., and senior research scientist in the Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine at The Miriam Hospital, stated that the randomized, controlled trial focused on adult women recruited from an upstate New York public clinic for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Participants completed a computerized questionnaire with questions about high-risk "sexual behavior, intimate relationships, and related covariates and confounding variables." Senn reported that the women in violent relationships feared if they asked their partners to use a condom, the partners would respond with violence. This resulted in less condom use for women because the consequences of asking a violent partner to use a condom were more immediate and potentially more severe than unintended pregnancy or STIs.

Seventeen percent of the study participants reported IPV in the last three months. Those who reported IPV also described "greater difficulties" in negotiating condom use with their abusers. Senn urged that health care providers who were involved with HIV prevention and risk reduction interventions address women's fear of IPV and negotiating safer sex as part of comprehensive care. Senn also recommended that women receive counseling about healthy relationships and assistance with developing a safety plan. The study also indicated the need to develop interventions for couples and men who were violent.

The full report, "Fear of Violent Consequences and Condom Use Among Women Attending an STD Clinic," was published online in the journal Women & Health (2013; doi:10.1080/03630242.2013.847890).

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.

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