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Intervening in Interpartner Violence Should Be an HIV Prevention Strategy, Study Suggests

By Kellee Terrell

September 9, 2011

It's common knowledge that interpartner violence increases the HIV transmission risk among women by making it nearly impossible to demand condom use. A new study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania studied how this violence impacts African-American women -- and what they found was alarming.

Among the 64 African American girls ages 14-17, forty-six percent admitted that they had unprotected sex in the past and most of those times it was because their boyfriend threatened them physically or sexually or actually abused them. The study refers to type of behavior as "condom coercion" which can play out in the abuse described above, emotional manipulation and men taking off condoms and not telling their partners.

Newswise reported:

Of the sample, 59 percent of girls experienced partner abuse that was physical, verbal, or threatening. Nearly 30 percent reported having unwanted vaginal sex and about 9 percent reported having unwanted anal sex. More than half the girls indicated they had experienced vaginal sex without a condom when they wanted their partner to use one.

When faced with partners trying to dissuade them from using condoms, girls may also feel pressures that silence them from even raising the topic of condom use. In the study, 25 percent of participants responded affirmatively to the question: "Have you ever wanted to talk with your sexual partner about using a condom during vaginal sex, but were not able to?"

This comment addresses the issue of "silencing condom negotiation," which the authors define as girls' reluctance to voice an interest in condom use at the risk of losing the relationship or facing other negative consequences.

Head researcher Anne M. Teitelman, assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing believes that strategies to get young girls and women out of these relationships should be regarded as a critical HIV prevention tool. She wrote: "Promoting healthy relationships among youth and preventing partner abuse in adolescent relationships should become a public health priority. This is necessary for primary prevention of the intersecting epidemics of partner abuse and HIV/STIs [sexually transmitted infections]."

Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.


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