I live with HIV/AIDS and I want to leave an abusive relationship. What can I do?
Being HIV-positive could affect someone’s decision to walk away from abuse.
Some of the issues that could be preventing victims living with HIV/AIDS from leaving an abusive relationship include:
- fear of unwanted disclosure of their diagnosis if they try to leave;
- discrimination against them when they attempt to find help at shelters or other emergency housing options after leaving abuse; and/or
- limited financial resources if they are unable to work and therefore, it may be harder to get the money that is needed to flee or that would be needed to live separately from the abuser.1
LGBTQ victims of domestic violence who are living with HIV/AIDS may face additional obstacles to leaving an abusive relationships because of unfair shaming about their sexual orientation and HIV status.1 For more information about abuse in LGBTQ relationships, you can go to our LGBTQ Victims page.
However, it is important to know that there is help out there. If you are facing any of these situations, you can call a local organization where an advocate can help you figure out what you want to do next and what help there is available for you. To find an organization near you, go to our Advocates and Shelters page and select your state from the drop-down menu. You can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
Another option for victims living with HIV/AIDS is to tell their doctor or nurse about the abuse and to ask for referrals or support that their local hospital or medical center may provide onsite. For example, a victim’s HIV clinic may have a partnership with the community’s domestic violence agencies and may even have an advocate onsite at the clinic. If a victim is afraid that the abuser would find out that s/he went to a domestic violence agency, this may be a better way to seek help. However, this may only be an option for those who:
- are currently receiving medical care for HIV/AIDS;
- trust their doctor/nurse; and
- are able to attend appointments alone and/or meet with their doctor/nurse alone without the abuser present.
1 This information has been adapted from information compiled by the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence’s “Domestic Violence and HIV/AIDS” page.
Where can I find additional resources about HIV and domestic violence?
If you want to learn more about HIV/AIDS and how domestic violence can affect people living with HIV/AIDS, here are some additional websites that can be helpful to read through:
- Intersection of Intimate Partner Violence and HIV in Women from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;
- Positively Safe: Addressing the Intersection of Domestic Violence & HIV/AIDS from the National Network to End Domestic Violence, including this brochure in English and Spanish
- The Empowered video series from Greater Than AIDS; and
- Violence Against Women and HIV (signs and safety planning) from The Well Project.