Keyi Cui

A study by researchers from the School of Public Health has found that in 49 states and Washington, D.C., there is a positive association between intimate partner violence and HIV diagnoses among women. The study also found that the association was stronger in states with lower levels of protective health care policies for victims of intimate partner violence.

The team concluded that additional state policies could be instrumental in reducing intimate partner violence and HIV diagnosis rates. The research was published in the journal Annals of Epidemiology online on July 25.

“Across the states, there is so much variability in policies,” said lead author Tiara Willie SPH ’18. “We wanted to ask if policies actually have a positive or negative impact for women’s health.”

Examples of policies include promoting health care professional training on how to build trust with victims of intimate partner violence; requiring mandatory reporting; and linking at-risk women or women living with HIV to community support resources.

“If we increase policies in the health care system alone, specifically domestic violence, then we can actually see an improvement in women’s health … not necessarily doing prevention for [intimate partner violence] or HIV, just changing the infrastructure,” Willie said. “When the state policies are there, these conversations on domestic violence do happen. Holistically, I want [community involvement initiatives] to be programmed, but this paper specifically studies the impact of policies.”

Carolyn Gibson, a researcher at the San Francisco VA Health Care System who also studies intimate partner violence, supported the value of policies to tackle intimate partner violence, commenting that the effect of state-level protective health care policies on the link between intimate partner violence and HIV diagnoses is striking.

Gibson, who was not involved in the study, also lent support to the importance of these efforts to make sure that women at risk have adequate access to appropriate trauma-informed and preventive care.

Moving forward, the study suggests that future research should develop race-specific intimate partner violence estimates given that from 2010 to 2015 and across 49 states and the U.S. capital, the mean HIV diagnosis rates among black and Hispanic women were consistently higher than those of white women. Additionally, further studies can explore how broad social and cultural processes, including the law, can affect this phenomenon.

More than half of all global female homicide victims last year were killed by intimate partners or relatives, according to a new report on homicides by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Ann Hui Ching |