Intimate partner violence towards HIV positive women in the UK

Rebecca McDowall, HIV i-Base

Although previous studies outside of the UK have reported higher levels of intimate partner violence (IPV) towards HIV positive women there is a lack of UK based data on this subject. A joint study between Homerton University Hospital and City University, London presented findings of above average IPV rates at an inner city, outpatient HIV clinic.

Results from the cross-sectional study were presented by Rageshri Dhairyawan, in an oral presentation. [1] Data was collected using a standardised questionnaire, evaluated using the HARK tool which asks whether the respondent has been humiliated, afraid, raped or kicked/hit by a partner. [2]

Of 314 women invited to participate, 198 consented and 191 women answered questions on IPV. Median age was 38 years (range 21-71 years); 70% were African, 20% black UK, 6% white and 4% other. Logistic regression models were fitted to estimate adjusted odds ratios (AOR).

Over half of the women (52%, 99/191) reported lifetime experience of IPV, 14% (27/191) within the last year and 14% during pregnancy. Women reporting HPV within the last year included: humiliation (12%), being afraid (9%), rape (3%) and hit/kicked (4%).

There were statistically significant associations between lifetime experience of IPV and self-reported mental health problems (AOR 3.44; 95% CI 1.24, 9.57) and black ethnicity not born in Africa (AOR 4.63 compared to being born in Africa, 95%CI 1.06, 20.11). Older age was associated with a reduced risk (AOR 0.92 per year increase; 95% CI 0.86, 0.97). Importantly, IPV was not found to be associated with socioeconomic or immigration status, educational background or substance misuse (all p >0.1).

In questions following the presentation it was asked whether a comparative study had been conducted in the local HIV negative population. This had not been done as a part of this study but rates of IPV in the study population were described as being higher than the local prevalence in women in primary care.

The study highlighted a need for greater awareness of IPV experienced by HIV positive women in the UK, and screening was recommended in women attending HIV clinics.


  1. Dhairyawan R et al. Intimate partner violence in women living with HIV attending an inner city clinic in the UK. 18th BHIVA Conference, 18-20 April 2012. Oral abstract O5. View webcast. Download slides (PDF).
  2. Sohal et al. 2007.

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