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About Abuse

Abuse Among People Living with HIV/AIDS

Updated: May 25, 2018

What is HIV/AIDS?

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) People living with HIV may or may not have AIDS, depending on how their health is being affected by the virus. AIDS is the most severe phase of the HIV infection. You can read more about this on HIV.gov.1

1 HIV.gov, “What Are HIV and AIDS?”

How common is domestic violence for people living with HIV/AIDS?

In general, one in three women experiences intimate partner violence (IPV), which is violence in a romantic relationship.1 However, one in every two women living with HIV/AIDS experiences IPV2 as this image from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows:

Domestic violence also increases the risk of exposure to HIV.3 While people living with HIV/AIDS, particularly women and LGBTQ individuals, are more likely to be victims of domestic violence,4 abusers living with HIV/AIDS may use their HIV status to control or hurt their partners as well.5

1 HIV.gov, “What Are HIV and AIDS?”
2 AIDS United, “The Intersection of Women, Violence, Trauma and HIV”
3 Futures Without Violence, “The Facts on Violence Against Women and HIV/AIDS”
4 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Intersection of Intimate Partner Violence and HIV in Women”
5 New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, “Domestic Violence and HIV/AIDS”

Can domestic violence increase the risk of exposure to HIV?

There are documented links between intimate partner violence (IPV) and HIV/AIDS. For instance, women in relationships where IPV is present are four times more likely to get sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in general, including HIV. When someone is in a sexually-abusive relationship, s/he is two to ten times more likely to get an STI. This could be because:

  • the abuser might be forcing the victim to have sex with an infected partner (him/herself or an outside partner);
  • the victim might not be able to engage in safer sex or safer sex negotiations with the abuser;
  • the abuser might be practicing risky sexual behaviors with other partners, which could put the victim at risk; and/or
  • the abuser could be luring or forcing the victim to participate in risky sexual behaviors.1

To learn more about the links between domestic violence and HIV, you can go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

1 This information has been adapted from information compiled by the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence’s “Domestic Violence and HIV/AIDS” page.