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New study highlights link between intimate partner violence and HIV

Friday, 24 January, 2014

A new study published by the Women and Health journal has revealed an inextricable link between intimate partner violence (IPV) and increased risk of HIV infection. The study was conducted in the United States by The Miriam Hospital and the University of Rochester and is based on a randomised control trial with clients of a sexually transmitted infections (STIs) clinic in New York State. Results of the study have provided an important insight into the ways in which IPV can lead to risky sexual behaviour, such as low levels of condom use.

The links between violence against women by intimate partners and HIV have been well documented in relation to increased sexual risk. The mechanisms that lead IPV to result in risky sexual behaviour were less understood, however. The study findings indicate that fear plays an important part in the ability of women in violent relationships to negotiate safer sex. In turn, this fear of a violent response from their partners puts women at great risk of HIV infection.

IPV remains an issue facing many women around the world. Not only does it restrict their right to protect themselves, it also places their health at risk. Co-author of the IPV study, Theresa Senn, concludes that HIV prevention and sexual health services must address IPV, and the fear of IPV when negotiating safer sex, to ensure that women are receiving comprehensive care.