This post was written in partnership with Kaiser Family Foundation’s Greater Than AIDS initiative
According to recent studies, one in three women experiences intimate partner violence (IPV). For women with HIV, it is one in two.
While IPV is a major issue for many women in the U.S., there is less discussion about the concerning connection with HIV. Women with an abusive partner are more likely to have forced and/or risky sex and may be less able to negotiate the use of protection, putting them at increased risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. The depression that often accompanies abuse can make it harder for women living with HIV to keep up with medications or stay connected to care. For some, sharing one’s status may increase abuse or bring on violence.
In most cases, deciding to tell someone that you have HIV is a personal choice. However, in the case of sexual relationships, it is a legal requirement in many states. There is no one best way to tell someone. Similarly, there is no sure way to know how those you tell will react.
The Well Project, a leading organization supporting women living with HIV, has some advice for disclosing safely:
- Share your status with your partner before becoming intimate. If a person feels they were put at risk or lied to, the risk of violence may be greater.
- Choose a public place with many people around. Find a spot that is private enough to have a conversation, but public enough to get help if you need it.
- Consider having a friend with you.
- Bring your partner to meet with your health care provider.
To bring more awareness to this issue, The Hotline, the Well Project and several other organizations have partnered with Kaiser Family Foundation’s Greater Than AIDS initiative to launch Empowered: Women, HIV and Intimate Partner Violence. For this campaign, Tonya Lewis Lee, lawyer and women’s health advocate, moderated a conversation with five women living with HIV, all of whom have experienced abuse from a partner.
Their conversation explores issues like understanding risk, getting help, finding love again and strategies for staying healthy. Campaign materials such as posters, flyers and a discussion guide are available for download here.
We hope that this campaign brings wider awareness to this issue and lets women living with HIV in abusive relationships know that they are not alone, and that help is out there.
If you are experiencing domestic violence, we can help. Call The Hotline 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233 or chat here on our website daily from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Central.