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July 03, 2013

Nonprofits Partner To Reduce HIV Risks



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As National HIV Testing Day approached this Thursday, two local nonprofits teamed up to address the often-hidden link between domestic violence and HIV by arranging on-site HIV testing.

The Retreat – eastern Long Island's only comprehensive domestic violence agency – and Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic (PPHP), a local organization focused on women's reproductive health, collaborated to raise awareness about the connection between intimate partner violence and HIV and to provide stronger access on June 27 and beyond to HIV testing and counseling for domestic violence victims. PPHP brought its SmartWheels mobile education and testing van to The Retreat's administrative office and promoted a local practice of screening for both domestic violence and HIV whenever possible.

 "Research shows us that being a victim of domestic violence increases one's chances of becoming infected with HIV. This critical collaboration between the Retreat and Planned Parenthood will systematically address the unique challenges and barriers facing victims of domestic violence who are at extreme risk of contracting HIV," said Jeffrey Friedman, Executive Director of The Retreat. 

The two cooperating nonprofits are aiming to address two particularly revealing facts: first, nearly 1.2 million people across the U.S. are living with HIV—with almost one in five not knowing they're infected; and second, 12 percent of HIV/AIDS infections among women in romantic relationships are due to intimate partner violence. Long Island experiences some of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the country.

 "Everyone should know their HIV status but it can be difficult to walk into a health center and ask to be tested," said PPHP President/CEO Reina Schiffrin. "Many of these women are already dealing with tremendous stress in their lives and we want to make their decision to be tested as easy and non-threatening as possible. By partnering with The Retreat, we are able to bring the clinic right to their door. "

Domestic violence victims are at increased risk for contracting HIV. Abusers may rape or sexually assault their victims as part of their pattern of control, making it unlikely that the abuser will use a condom. Some abusers may intentionally infect their partners with HIV in an attempt to keep the victim from leaving.

In other cases, victims are often unable to negotiate the use of safer sex practices with coercive partners. Abusive partners who engage in sexual activity outside the relationship potentially expose victims to HIV. Abusive partners may force victims to engage in sexual activities with others. And, in general, victims of domestic violence often suffer a wide range of health-related problems caused or exacerbated by the abuse. This negative effect on their health may compromise their immune system, increasing their risk of HIV. 

National HIV Testing Day has occurred annually on June 27 since 2005.

 

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