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HIV/AIDS Blog Central

The Connection Between Domestic Violence and HIV

By Candace Y.A. Montague

October 18, 2010

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Domestic Violence is a pattern of behavior used by someone to establish power and control over another person through fear and intimidation. It happens between people who are, or have been, in an intimate relationship. Domestic violence often includes the threat or actual use of violence. It happens when one person believes they are entitled to control another. In 2009, 4,796 people were served at the two Domestic Violence Intake Center locations in DC. The way it can lead to HIV infection is commonly through sexual abuse.

The basis of many domestic violence cases is gender-based biases that oppress women and prevent them from protecting their sexual health. These inequalities directly and indirectly lead to the spread of the virus.

  • Inability to negotiate with a partner- If the man (or lead partner) decides he is not interested in using protection during sex and has a history of verbal or physical violence, the woman may fear insisting on condom use.
  • Lack of financial independence- In some instances, the man makes more money, pays more of the bills and/or provides a residence for the woman and her children. This kind of power says to the abuser "I am in control. She can't go anywhere because she can't afford it. What I say goes". He doesn't have to hit her to be the abuser. It's all about the control.
  • Fear of being punished or abandoned for being HIV positive (even if the woman contracted it from her current abuser)- Women may live in fear of disclosing their status to their abuser because he might blame her for contracting it 'you must have cheated on me'. He may also leave her for being HIV positive.
  • Forcing the victim to engage in unsafe sexual acts or injection drug use with other partners- This may be the case in terms of prositution where the 'pimp' may threaten violence if the woman doesn't engage in unprotected sex acts. She may be forced to use injection drugs as way to control her through addiction.

To see a list of other ways that domestic violence can put a victim at risk for HIV, click here.

There are many resources and places in DC to get help with domestic violence including shelters. No woman, regardless of her financial, living situation or HIV status, has to suffer from violence. The Metropolitan Police Department is a great place to start. Click here to see what they can do for you. If you need help finding shelter, resources, or legal advice, click here.

If you're looking to get involved, check out The DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Get help if you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence. Love doesn't hurt.

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See Also
What Did You Expect While You Were Expecting?
HIV/AIDS Resource Center for Women

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Realize Sat., Oct. 30, 2010 at 6:34 am EDT
I would like to offer up another neglected issue and that is the women who abuse men who are HIV+. I have been involved in three situations with women who I was either intimate or there was the possibility of intimacy. Each time disclosing long before the clothes came off. Each time it was meet with understanding and compassion. Since my diagnosis I have always had protected sex. Not my favorite but a reality of my status. Being a heterosexual male that is healthy and physically very active I find it unfortunate that public awareness and the negative stigma around HIV is still very much apart of society. Unfortunately when my last relationship ended my HIV+ status was publicly disclosed by my ex-girlfriend for reason unknown to me. That wasn't what was so difficult. I am HIV+ that is a fact. What was most troublesome was that she accused me of not disclosing my status. She attempted to cause me great harm by reporting that, but the fact that it had no basis in reality and both my doctor knew of my disclosing and a person my ex-girlfiend had contacted the day after I disclosed to her before we had any sexual intimacy knew the truth. But what it brought up for me is the trust that one must have with another when disclosing and the unfortunate increase of HIV amongst women is also due to non-disclosure. The story that needs to be told and modeled more is Disclosure. More especially needs to be done in hetero-sexual community. Because of this situation I believe that there is a great deal of shame in the hetero community around HIV and that it needs to be talked about. Many still hold onto the idea that this a gay disease. The fact that that an unstable, vengeful or angry ex can use the public hysteria around HIV to cause harm or perhaps result in a person making the wrong choice in not disclosing is a tragedy. It needs to come into the light. And be meet knowledge, understanding and love. Sometimes domestic violence is not so obvious.
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Comment by: Bert (Philadelphia) Thu., Oct. 28, 2010 at 4:10 pm EDT
I see your comments are not gender neutral.
Sexual,verbal and emotional violence occurs with regularity to men who have sex with men.
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Candace Y.A. Montague

Candace Y.A. Montague

Candace Y.A. Montague has been learning about HIV since 1988 (and she has the certificates from the American Red Cross to prove it). Health is a high priority to Candace because she believes that nothing can come of your life if you're not healthy enough to enjoy it. One of her two master's degrees is in Community Health Promotion and Education. Candace was inspired to act against HIV after seeing a documentary in 2008 about African-American women and HIV. She knew that writing was the best way for her to make a difference and help inform others. Candace is a native Washingtonian and covers HIV news all around D.C. She has covered fundraisers, motorcycle rides, town hall meetings, house balls, Capitol Hill press conferences, election campaigns and protests for The DC Examiner.com and emPower News Magazine.

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