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Violence against women and HIV risk

a man yelling at a woman

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If you think you've been drugged or raped:

  • Call 911 or go to the hospital immediately
  • Ask the hospital to take a urine sample that can be used to test for date rape drugs
  • Don't pick up or clean up where you think the assault might have occurred
  • Get counseling treatment

Violence against women plays a big role in causing HIV infection among women. In date rape or sexual assault, forced sex can cause cuts that allow easy entry of HIV. This is especially true for young girls, whose reproductive tracts are less fully developed.

If you are currently in an abusive relationship, you are more likely to get HIV. That's partly because abusive men are more likely to have sexual partners other than their wife. Women in violent relationships often lack any control. Either partner may have other sexual relationships going on at the same time.

Fear of violence keeps some women from insisting on condom use. Fear of violence also keeps some women from seeking treatment for HIV or other STIs. Women may delay being tested for HIV or not get the results because they are afraid that sharing their HIV-positive status may result in physical violence.

Women with HIV may be at risk of violence when they tell a partner about their HIV status. If you have HIV, take these steps to lower the risk that your partner will react violently when you tell your status:

  • Tell your partner that you have HIV before you get sexually involved.
  • Break the news in a semi-public place. A public park is a good place because it gives you some privacy, but make sure other people are around in case you need help.
  • If you feel at all threatened by your partner's reaction, stop seeing him or her. If you must meet, do so only in public.
  • Find a domestic violence service in your community and ask for help.

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More information on Violence against women and HIV risk

Read more from womenshealth.gov

  • Violence Against Women - Too many women suffer violence at the hands of someone close to them. This Web page provides abused women and their loved ones with resources and information they can use to get help. It also gives information about different types of abuse, including domestic violence, sexual abuse and assault, dating violence, and elder abuse.

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Content last updated: July 01, 2011.

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