A complex set of social and cultural factors influence every HIV positive person’s decision about how, when and with whom to disclose. For people experiencing domestic violence, the stakes are high. Disclosure may escalate serious verbal threats to physical violence or may increase the severity of preexisting abuse (New York Department of Health). Other outcomes that may put the survivor in danger include threats of harm or outing to children or family or job/social network, loss of housing, restricting medications and even criminalization in some states. These things put the survivors health in jeopardy, and also make leaving an abusive relationship more difficult. Partner notification policies must note the safety risks for survivors of domestic violence.
There are no federal laws mandating disclosure of HIV status, which means that laws about HIV disclosure are left up to each state to decide. Many states and some cities have partner-notification laws—meaning that, there may be a legal duty to disclose HIV status to partners, and where non-disclosure is a crime. The HIV positive person’s name is not given- that remains confidential (AIDS.gov). Most states also require domestic violence risk screening prior to disclosure. However, there are many anonymous disclosure options through local health departments, websites, and doctors.
Trauma and intimate partner violence have negative health consequences on survivors with HIV. In fact, studies indicate that women living with HIV who have experienced IPV:
- Take longer to be linked to care after being diagnosed.
- Are more likely to fall out of care.
- Are less likely to take antiretroviral therapy (ART).
- Are more likely to experience treatment failure.
Don’t Spread It is an anonymous partner notification service that will send an anonymous email or phone call to a past sexual partner to let them know they may be at risk for HIV or other STIs. It is completely anonymous, and managed through the website