Michele A. Rountree, Ph.D.
School of Social Work
The University of Texas at Austin
Challenging the Silence Around the Intersectionality of the Intimate Partner Violence and HIV/AIDS: the Voices of African-American Women
The intersection between intimate partner violence (IPV) and HIV/AIDS warrants attention among African-American women, who experience high rates of IPV and HIV. IPV and lack of relational power may lead to HIV risk for women in violent relationships. Correspondingly, when considering the relationship between HIV and IPV, women living with HIV/AIDS may be at risk for IPV. The possibility that HIV disclosure could lead to subsequent abuse is disconcerting, because disclosure is necessary in order to obtain health system and personal support. Although research has provided us with information on IPV and on HIV/AIDS, too little is known about the pathways that link them from the lived experiences of African-American women in particular. To build on current research, these pathways were examined by analyzing data from a series of focus group sessions of African-American survivors of IPV (n=9) and seropositive African-American women (n=17). Particular attention was paid to personal and partner characteristics that may elevate risk factors for sexual risk, the aspects of culture that serve as protective or risk factors in the women’s lives, disclosure of HIV diagnosis, and intervention strategies. Grounded theory was used as the theoretical framework guiding the study. The primary themes that emerged revolved around women’s inability to practice known HIV prevention techniques with their intimate partners, a disconnect between ideal situations and lived experiences, the influence of culture, and intervention strategies to protect oneself from HIV or reinfection.