Journal Article

A prospective study of exposure to gender-based violence and risk of sexually transmitted infection acquisition in the Women’s Interagency HIV Study, 1995–2018

Our objectives were to estimate the association of gender-based violence (GBV) experience with the risk of sexually transmitted infection (STI) acquisition in HIV-seropositive and HIV-seronegative women, to compare the STI risks associated with recent and lifetime GBV exposures, and to quantify whether these associations differ by HIV status.

We conducted a multicenter, prospective cohort study in the Women's Interagency HIV Study, 1994–2018. Poisson models were fitted using generalized estimating equations to estimate the association of past 6-month GBV experience (physical, sexual, or intimate partner psychological violence) with subsequent self-reported STI diagnosis (gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, pelvic inflammatory disease, or trichomoniasis).

Data from 2868 women who reported recent sexual activity comprised 12,069 person-years. Higher STI risk was observed among HIV-seropositive women (incidence rate [IR] 5.5 per 100 person-years) compared with HIV-seronegative women (IR 4.3 per 100 person-years). Recent GBV experience was associated with a 1.28-fold (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.99, 1.65) risk after adjustment for HIV status and relevant demographic, socioeconomic, and sexual risk variables. Other important risk factors for STI acquisition included unstable housing (adjusted incidence rate ratio [AIRR] 1.81, 95% CI 1.32–2.46), unemployment (AIRR 1.42, 95% CI 1.14–1.76), transactional sex (AIRR 2.06, 95% CI 1.52–2.80), and drug use (AIRR 1.44, 95% CI 1.19–1.75). Recent physical violence contributed the highest risk of STI acquisition among HIV-seronegative women (AIRR 2.27, 95% CI 1.18–4.35), whereas lifetime GBV experience contributed the highest risk among HIV-seropositive women (AIRR 1.59, 95% CI 1.20–2.10).

GBV prevention remains an important public health goal with direct relevance to women's sexual health.