women who are victims of violence by their partners are only half as likely to stick to HIV treatment as women who are not abused. They also have 36% lower odds of viral suppression, which indicates if the infection is under control.

WOMEN who are victims of violence by their partners are only half as likely to stick to HIV treatment as women who are not abused. They also have 36% lower odds of viral suppression, which indicates if the infection is under control.

This means such women generally have poorer health and HIV carriers transmit the virus easily.

Abigail Hatcher, lead author of the findings published in the journal AIDS, and researcher at Wits University, said: “If HIV treatment is going to succeed, domestic violence must be addressed. That would do wonders for HIV health.”

She said the research could be used to change policy on what HIV care programmes provide and time shouldn’t be wasted on more research on the problem.

“We know there are many problems in the lives of HIV-positive people, such as depression and substance abuse. But the research has shown that these have a less marked effect on adherence to treatment than violence.”

This means that addressing domestic violence should be a “primary target not just a useful add-on”.

Rachel Jewkes, an SA Medical Research Council researcher, said: “We know a lot about how intimate partner violence leads to HIV infection, but this is the first time we have been able to see that violence consistently impacts on the health of women living with HIV.”

Nyanga resident Bongeka Mdunge, 53, said she dreaded her daughter, 22, finding love.

“It is hard enough to make sure young people stick to treatment. She does not need another thing to disrupt treatment.”

Bernedette Muthien, deputy director general in the Department of Women, said: “It should be acknowledged that all the things that would enhance human dignity fall away when there is intimate partner violence.”

She said this could include antiretroviral or TB therapy, or contraception, and many other things to do with one’s wellbeing.

 

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