Women who are HIV+ are twice as likely to experience domestic violence. Given the intersection of abuse and HIV, there is a clear need specialized services specifically for HIV+ survivors. The Health Trust, who has been addressing health issues through innovative partnerships since 1996, sought to address this gap by working with Next Door Solutions (NDS) to provide case management and support to domestic violence survivors living in their HIV+ housing program.
Nearly 25% of Americans living with HIV/AIDS are women.
According to the Center for Disease Control, there are an estimated 1.1 million Americans living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This figure is expected to grow by 500,000 each year. Figures from 2010 and 2011 indicate that women and adolescent girls account for 20% of new infections. Victims of domestic violence are 4 times as likely to contract a sexually transmitted infection (STI) including HIV. Women of Color are disproportionately impacted by HIV and AIDS. A 2014 study revealed that of American women diagnosed as HIV+ more than 60% were African-American and 86% of women were infected through heterosexual sex.
Given the high risk of STI transmission in an abusive relationship the risk of a victim becoming infected whether through intentional or accidental exposure continues to be a concern. We see the highest rates of infection among low income, especially young low-income women of color. It is necessary to develop wraparound programs to help women stay safe and adhere to medical treatments. When looking specifically at the needs of women living with HIV and who are also survivors of domestic violence, we see an even greater need. Over half of women living with HIV have been a victim of domestic violence. Studies have shown that victims are less likely to comply with treatment, experience greater housing insecurity and are more likely to die from an HIV related illness.
Leaving an abusive relationship is often difficult, leaving is made all the more challenging when faced with a major health concern. Abusers may limit access to medical care or treatments, threaten to publicly expose a diagnosis or treatment plan or even use the victim’s diagnosis against her in custody or court hearings. Women living with HIV/AIDs are already very familiar with this challenge.
NDS and The Health Trust saw an opportunity to collaborate.
The Health Trust has long known that of the many determinants of health, safe and stable housing has the greatest impact. They have operated a range of housing programs for low-income individuals who were diagnosed HIV+, including emergency assistance, transitional and permanent supportive housing. With the intense stigma around HIV, a survivor may not know she can turn to a domestic violence organization for help, or she may be worried that a traditional shelter would be safe for her. NDS stood at the ready to help survivors navigate these challenges. This type of collaboration-the first of its kind in Santa Clara County, allows both organizations to fully address the intersection of HIV/AIDs and domestic violence.
The HealthTrust subcontracts with NDS to provide training and evaluation of existing programs to ensure The Health Trust staff are properly assessing for domestic violence. NDS provides domestic violence training to The Health Trust staff. In return, The Health Trust is training NDS advocates on HIV/AIDS education, how to assess for HIV/AIDS, and connecting with services. Once assessments are complete The Health Trust will be able to screen those living with HIV/AIDS for domestic violence and transition them into their housing programs. NDS will provide domestic violence services for survivors in concert with The Housing Trust’s own housing and self-sufficiency programs. The program is in its early stages, the staff is presently working on program intakes and developing next steps. Watch this space to learn more as this partnership grows and evolves!