Violence against women and HIV risk

Violence against women plays a role in causing HIV infection among women.

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Types of violence against women

The types of violence against women that play a role in HIV infection rates among women include:

  • Forced sex. In the United States, nearly one in five women has been raped in her lifetime and two in every five women have experienced another type of sexual assault.1 Sexual assault puts you at risk for HIV, because the man may not use a condom during sexual violence. Forced sex can also cause tears or cuts that allow easy entry of HIV. This is especially true for girls and younger women, whose reproductive tracts are not fully developed.
  • Sexual abuse in childhood (a form of violence against women) raises your lifetime risk of getting HIV. Women who were sexually abused are more likely than women who were not abused to report risk-taking behavior later in life.2
  • Human trafficking or sex trafficking is linked to the global spread of HIV and new strains of HIV. It raises HIV risk for its victims because they are often:
    • Having forced and unsafe sex with multiple partners
    • Injecting or otherwise using illegal drugs to make or keep them compliant
    • Self-injecting or otherwise using drugs to cope
    • Getting medical and/or surgical treatment by unqualified practitioners in unsanitary conditions. Women may be exposed to contaminated instruments and/or unscreened blood supplies for pregnancy terminations.

Take steps to lower your risk when talking to your partner about HIV.

Women with HIV may be at risk for violence when they tell a partner about their HIV status. Take these steps to lower your risk:

  • Find a domestic violence service in your community and ask for help. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
  • Tell your partner that you have HIV before you get sexually involved.
  • Break the news in a semi-public place. 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.