Researchers from The Miriam Hospital and the University of Rochester have found a link between violence among intimate partners and an increased risk of HIV infection. The study is online in the journal Women & Health.
Sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, are an important public health problem for women in the U.S. Each year, 27 percent of new HIV infections are in women, and heterosexual transmission accounts for 83 percent of those infections. A recent national study attributed 12 percent of HIV/AIDS infections among women to relationships involving intimate partner violence (IPV).
Past studies have linked male-perpetrated intimate partner violence (IPV) with sexual risk behaviors, including an increase in the number of sexual partners, trading money or drugs for sex, and inconsistent use of condoms. While researchers agree that IPV affects sexual risk among women, little is known about the mechanisms by which IPV leads to risky sexual behavior.
That is the basis behind the newly published study co-authored by Theresa Senn, PhD, senior research scientist in the Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine at The Miriam Hospital.
“The association between partner violence and lower rates of condom use has been studied by other researchers,” Senn said, “but few have investigated why this association exists. Researchers and clinicians have assumed that women in violent relationships fear asking their partners to use a condom, but only a handful of studies have documented that this is actually the case.” She adds that those studies were conducted with adolescents, where other factors may be at play. This study, however, focused on adult women.
“Our findings suggest that women involved in violent relationships fear that their partner might respond with violence if asked to use a condom, which in turn, leads to less condom use for these women,” Senn said.