Experiences of violence in HIV seropositive women in the south-eastern United States of America
Women represent one of the fastest growing groups being diagnosed with HIV infection. Because of the circumstances under which they live, women at the highest risk for HIV infection may also be at risk for verbal, physical and sexual violence. The purpose of this study was to examine the frequency and type of violence experienced by women infected with HIV, and describe associations between reported violence, self-esteem and sense of competence. The study used a descriptive design and was conducted in the south-eastern United States. The sample consisted of 194 women infected with HIV. Women were primarily single, African-Americans residing in urban areas with an annual household income of less than $10 000 per year. Participants completed face-to-face interviews using a structured questionnaire which included a frequency of violence scale, Rosenberg’s self-esteem scale, and Pearlin and Schooler’s mastery scale. Approximately 15% of women reported at least one event of physical abuse and 55% at least one event of verbal abuse in the past 6 months. Verbal abuse experienced by women was the strongest net negative predictor of self-esteem and competence. These findings indicate that HIV-infected women are at risk for experiencing physical abuse and verbal abuse, and the experience of violence is associated with lower self-esteem and competence.