A New Paper Calls for More HIV Research in Marginalized Communities

Researchers identify how intimate partner violence is a key indicator for poor HIV outcomes, and how we need to focus more research and interventions on groups of women who are most vulnerable.

By
Caroline Harting
March 11, 2022

There is still no cure for AIDS, but advances in antiretroviral treatments have made living with HIV possible. For many, the disease is no longer a death sentence. However, there are communities in the United States and around the world that are still at serious risk. 

In a paper recently published in The Lancet HIV, researchers from Columbia, Nabila el-Bassel, University Professor and professor, School of Social Work; Louisa Gilbert, professor, School of Social Work; and Trena Mukherjee, doctoral student, Mailman School of Public Health, along with Claudia Stoicescu, research associate, Oxford Law; Laura Starbird, assistant professor School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania; Jamila Stockman, associate professor, department of medicine, University of California, San Diego; and Victoria Frye, professor School of Medicine, City University of New York, illustrate how women who experience intimate partner violence have the most risk of contracting HIV and having poor outcomes from the disease. 

They identify the most vulnerable groups who experience intimate partner violence and risk of contracting HIV: sex workers, women who use drugs, transgender women, and adolescent girls and young women (aged 15-24 years). Women in these groups are more likely to be in situations where they contract the virus and are more unlikely to seek out treatment once they do contract HIV because of stigmatization and reluctance to involve authorities.

The paper calls for more attention to be directed into research exploring the connections between intimate partner violence and these vulnerable and often overlooked populations. Targeted intervention using peer-mediated outreach and increased access to health services can lead to better outcomes, according to the authors, and “multilevel interventions that co-target risk factors for both HIV and intimate partner violence can avert HIV infections and prevent intimate partner violence across diverse settings.” 

“Few research and prevention efforts or policies focus on intimate partner violence and HIV among key populations of women, despite these women bearing a disproportionate burden of both,” El-Bassel said. “Globally the emphasis needs to be on changing policy. Intimate partner violence needs to be part of the equation to end HIV.”