About Abuse

Abuse Among those Living with HIV

December 4, 2015

How can the presence of HIV affect victims of abuse?

The presence of HIV/AIDS in an abusive relationship (either a heterosexual or homosexual relationship) creates its own unique set of challenges and can prove to be an additional obstacle to getting help.  An abuser may use a victim's HIV-positive (HIV+) status against him/her, and the stress of abuse can worsen a victim's health.*  A victim may also be dependent on an abuser to access necessary medical care.  Alternatively, an HIV-positive abuser may use his/her HIV status as a way of gaining control over the victim.

Here are some behaviors that abusers use to gain power and control over an HIV-positive (HIV+) victim:

  • Threatening to reveal a victim's HIV+ status to family, friends, co-workers, landlords, or in a custody case;
  • Making a victim feel guilty about the HIV+ status of his/her children;
  • Belittling a victim over his/her HIV+ status (e.g., telling the victim that no one will want him/her because of his/her HIV+ status);
  • Using the victim's HIV+ status as an excuse for violent behavior;**
  • Using a victim's HIV+ status as an excuse to isolate him/her from others and to take control of the victim's finances, making the victim more dependent on the abuser; and
  • Withholding, hiding or throwing away medicine, cancelling medical appointments or denying the victim access to medical care.*

* This information has been adapted from information compiled by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs - see "HIV/AIDS and Domestic Violence"
** This information has been adapted from information compiled by the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence - see "Domestic Violence and HIV/AIDS"