This research addresses four questions: (1) What role do health care providers play in women's disclosure to others of their HIV-positive status? (2) What are women's concerns and experiences with disclosure? (3) What violence do women living with HIV experience? (4) How is the violence related to their diagnosis and disclosures?
Participants were 310 HIV-positive women enrolled in an HIV primary care clinic in an urban teaching hospital. Women were interviewed once using both quantitative and qualitative methods.
Women had known they were HIV-positive for an average of 5.8 years; 22% had an HIV-positive partner; 58% had disclosed their status to more than 10 people; and 68% had experienced physical abuse and 32% sexual abuse as an adult. Fifty-seven percent of the sample reported that a health care provider had told them to disclose to their sex partners. Women who were afraid of disclosure-related violence (29%) were significantly more likely than those who were not to report that a health care provider helped them with disclosure (21% vs. 10%). Although 4% reported physical abuse following a disclosure event, 45% reported experiencing emotional, physical, or sexual abuse at some time after their diagnosis. Risk factors for experiencing abuse after diagnosis were a prior history of abuse, drug use, less income, younger age, length of time since diagnosis, and having a partner whose HIV status was negative or unknown.
Identifying women at risk for abuse after an HIV-positive diagnosis is important for those who provide HIV testing and care. Routine screening for interpersonal violence should be incorporated into HIV posttest counseling and continuing primary care services.