HIV/AIDS + Domestic Violence: Women at the Intersection

Today marked the first meeting of Coalition H.O.W.L., a coalition of service providers working together to help women who live at the intersection of HIV/AIDS and Domestic Violence (DV).

Her story. One community. Waking up to LISTEN.

The Greater Newark Area is an epicenter of these two intersecting epidemics—each of which is characterized by stigma, fear of disclosure, violence, under-education, and lack of available resources. Each of which requires a special kind of trauma-informed care that is yet to be comprehensively developed. But it is much needed.

New Jersey accounts for the highest rates in the nation of women living with HIV/AIDS; Essex County alone is estimated to have 5,230 women living with the virus. This part of New Jersey also has alarming rates of DV and even more staggering rates of DV crimes that are not met with a conviction. In Essex County, it is estimated that 8.49 women experience DV per hour. And while a 2013 survey showed that Newark represented 42.6% of DV crimes in Essex County, only 14 instances of sexual assault were reported last year.

“In the United States, women living with HIV are more likely to die from violence, trauma, and the effects of lifetime abuse, than HIV-related causes” [Positive Women’s Network].

It is the silence that surrounds both HIV/AIDS and DV that is the most lethal. Coalition H.O.W.L. seeks to bring information and collaborative services to the forefront. Of women living at the intersection of HIV/AIDS and DV: 55% experience Intimate Partner Violence (2x the national rate); 61%have been sexually abused (5x the national rate); and 30% have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (5x the national rate). 45% of women were met with physical abuse upon disclosing their HIV status. There is a crisis of silence that surrounds this population that will not be alleviated until service providers from both populations come together to develop a “pipeline” that bridges supportive services for women from this population.

To understand this phenomenon, we need to probe it. The immediate goals of Coalition H.O.W.L. are to begin a support group from women living with HIV/AIDS who have experienced DV; coordinate resources through monthly face-to-face gatherings; and to spread awareness by inviting other organizations to become involved with this work.

If you are interested in learning more, contributing, or sharing about this work, please call Dr. Jaclyn Harte at (973) 643-0400 ext. 751.

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