Guest Blogger: Supporting Women Living with HIV/AIDS

women on rooftop

Today’s guest blogger is Surabhi Kukke, MPH has worked in the field of women’s health and human rights for 15 years.

While many people recognize October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, fewer may be aware that today is National Day to End Violence Against Women Living with HIV.

HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death for women ages 15-49.  In the United States, the statistics are a bit less stark, but still sobering. Women account for one quarter of people living with HIV, the vast majority (86 percent) having contracted it through heterosexual sex.

Intimate partner violence can be both a cause and a consequence of HIV infection for women and girls. Sexual coercion and violence puts women at increased risk for HIV infection. Women are at least twice more likely to acquire HIV from men during sexual intercourse than vice versa. The stigma associated with HIV makes HIV positive women more vulnerable to violence at the hands of their partners or communities and also can prevent them from accessing the services they need.

Three out of four US women living with HIV/AIDS reports lifetime experience of partner violence as compared to the national average of one out of four US women. The intersection between women’s vulnerability to violence and HIV infection points to a critical place for health care providers to have a trauma informed response. Understanding the ways that violence can interfere with HIV positive women’s ability to adhere to medical regimens, reach medical appointments on time, for instance, will help  health care providers offer the best possible care to their patients.

To address this serious issue, FUTURES, in collaboration with partners around the country has been developing patient and provider resources to address the intersection between intimate partner violence and HIV/AIDS. A new safety card, Sex, Relationships and Getting Tested: Taking Control of Your Health, gives providers a way to discuss the intersecting issues of violence and HIV and direct patients to needed resources. In addition we are developing training materials for health care providers to build their capacity in providing a trauma informed response to women living with HIV and violence.