New research has examined reasons for the strong connection between intimate partner violence (IPV) and an elevated risk of HIV acquisition among women. Publishing their findings in the journal Women & Health, researchers recruited 478 women from a sexually transmitted infection clinic in upstate New York. The participants completed a questionnaire about their risky sexual behavior, sexual relationships and other related factors.

A little over one in four new infections in the United States are among women each year. Eighty-three percent of those cases are a result of heterosexual transmission. A previous national study speculated that 12 percent of the incident HIV infections among women are a consequence of IPV.

“The association between partner violence and lower rates of condom use has been studied by other researchers, but few have investigated why this association exists,” Theresa Senn, PhD, senior research scientist in the Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine at The Miriam Hospital, and co-author of the study, said in a release. “Researchers and clinicians have assumed that women in violent relationships fear asking their partners to use a condom, but only a handful of studies have documented that this is actually the case.”

Seventeen percent of the women in the study reported they had experienced IPV during the previous three months. There was a link between recent IPV and the fear of a violent response to requests for condom use. Such a fear was itself associated with using condoms inconsistently. Those who reported recent IPV also said they had increased trouble negotiating safer sex with their male partners. In sum, the fear of violence hindered the women's capacity for protecting themselves against HIV infection.

To read the release on the study, click here.

To read the study abstract, click here.