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About Abuse

Abuse Among People Living with HIV/AIDS

May 25, 2018

I am living with HIV/AIDS. How could domestic violence affect my health or well-being?

HIV, AIDS, and other sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) can create specific challenges for people in abusive relationships. Domestic violence can make it difficult for people living with HIV to get medical care. Here are some ways domestic violence can affect the medical care and overall health of people living with HIV/AIDS:

  • Victims who have recently been abused are four times more likely to have antiretroviral therapy failure (HIV treatment failure) than people who have not recently been abused;
  • The abuser may be in charge of the victim’s bank account/access to money, health insurance, and other financial resources, and refuse to provide financial support for health care or medical expenses;
  • The victim may be on disability or another source of fixed income and depend on the abuser for expensive medications and other treatment. This leaves the victim financially vulnerable to the abuser, instead of being able to decide for herself/himself what treatment s/he needs;
  • If the abuser is in some way taking care of the victim, the victim may be concerned about who will take care of him/her if the victim leaves the abuser or the abuser is removed from the home;
  • The victim may worry about who will care for his/her children if s/he gets sick and may even postpone treatment because s/he doesn’t have help with child care or is afraid of leaving kids with the abuser; and
  • Victims of domestic violence who are living with HIV/AIDS may fear that partner notification laws will result in a current or former abuser being notified about their status.1 Therefore, a victim may go without medical treatment in case partner notification laws would require the doctor or other medical professional to tell the victim’s current or former partners that s/he has HIV. However, not all states require this type of notification. To learn about any partner notification laws that may exist in your state, please see The Center for HIV Law & Policy.

1 This information has been adapted from information compiled by the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence.