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NNEDV Recognizes National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

March 10, 2023

Spotlighting the Intersection of Domestic Violence and HIV in Women and Girls of Color

Today is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day—a day to raise awareness about the impact of HIV on women and girls and to show support for women and girls living with HIV. The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) is proud to recognize this awareness day and shine a spotlight on the barriers faced by women and girls living with HIV, including racism, stigma, and domestic violence.

While women and girls of all races and ethnicities are living with HIV, Women and Girls of Color face disproportionate risks and challenges compared to white women and girls. For example, social barriers such as racism, discrimination, and HIV stigma have a major impact on African Americans’ health and well-being. These factors prevent some Black women from seeking and receiving preventive health care and services, which increases the chances of getting or transmitting HIV. These factors can also make it more difficult for Black women to access the resources and support they need to manage their health after receiving an HIV diagnosis.

In addition to social barriers, experiencing domestic violence can create additional challenges. Women and girls who have been exposed to domestic violence (including physical or sexual violence, stalking, or mental abuse by a current or past partner) are often limited or compromised in negotiating safer sex practices and are more likely to engage (or be forced to engage) in increased sexual risk-taking behaviors. Domestic violence is about power and control, and some abusers choose to weaponize HIV status as a tool to cause harm. This can include intentionally transmitting HIV to a partner; forcing a partner to have sex without a condom; preventing a partner from accessing medical care; withholding, disposing of, or tampering with medications; threatening to expose a partner’s HIV status; and other abusive tactics.

Available data indicate that 55% percent of women living with HIV have experienced intimate partner violence, and domestic violence victims are 48% more likely to be exposed to HIV transmission. Additionally, women who have been recently abused have more than four times the rate of antiretroviral therapy (HIV treatment) failure. Women of Color—who are already disproportionately impacted by domestic violence—are placed at significantly more risk from a partner’s violence when they are also living with HIV. Black women in particular are disproportionately impacted by both HIV and DV, with 15 times the AIDS diagnosis rate and three times the rate of DV-related homicide, compared to white women.

The intersection between domestic violence and HIV prevention and care directly impacts NNEDV’s work. NNEDV’s Positively Safe team is proud to support advocates helping domestic violence survivors living with HIV. The team works to address the intersections of domestic violence and HIV by partnering with other organizations, providing technical assistance and training opportunities, and developing and disseminating critical resources. Our Positively Safe Toolkit includes information and resources for advocates and the general public.

Under the Risk to Reasons initiative sponsored by ViiV Healthcare, the Positively Safe project will conduct listening sessions with Black survivors of domestic violence living with HIV, along with service providers, to discuss sexual health, prevention, stigma, and language, as well as to understand current successes and challenges. These listening sessions will inform trainings and technical assistance to service providers from the domestic violence and HIV fields, as well as others who work with domestic violence survivors and people living with HIV. In addition, Positively Safe will develop awareness videos and tools to bring more attention to these intersecting issues and to highlight HIV prevention, bodily autonomy, and empowerment for Black women who have or are experiencing domestic violence. These videos can then be shared by state, territorial, and local domestic violence organizations to raise awareness in their communities. We’re grateful to ViiV for supporting this essential work.

If you’re a service provider working with domestic violence survivors and/or people living with HIV, make sure to sign up for NNEDV emails so you know when these videos are available. We also welcome you request a Positively Safe training for your organization by emailing Together, we can make a difference for domestic violence survivors—and for all people—living with HIV.