oa South African Medical Journal - Intimate partner violence among HIV-serodiscordant couples in Durban, South Africa - research

Volume 108 Number 11
  • ISSN : 0256-9574
  • E-ISSN: 2078-5135



Background. South Africa (SA) has a high prevalence rate of intimate partner violence (IPV) and HIV, both of which can be exacerbated further by HIV serodiscordancy in the couple dyad. Further exploration of the discordancy sidedness in known mediating factors, such as alcohol abuse risk and post-traumatic stress (PTS), is required. 

Objectives. To investigate the extent of and gender differences in IPV, alcohol abuse risk and PTS symptoms among HIV-serodiscordant couples in Durban, SA, and to analyse these further with regard to female HIV serostatus. Methods. A cross-sectional analysis of data on 30 serodiscordant couples was conducted at the point of enrolment into a pilot study of an HIV risk reduction intervention. The statistical procedure for a dependent small sample was applied to examine gender differences in IPV, alcohol use and PTS symptoms among HIV-serodiscordant couples. 

Results. The woman was HIV-positive in 18 (60.0%) of the 30 serodiscordant couples enrolled. Exposure to IPV differed significantly between men (28.6%) and women (89.3%) (proportional difference –0.61, 95% confidence interval (CI) –0.82 - –0.39). The Wilcoxon signed-rank test showed that PTS symptom scores differed significantly between men (median 22, interquartile range (IQR) 23) and women (median 44, IQR 28) (p=0.03). When the above analysis was stratified by female HIV serostatus, significant gender differences were found in IPV and PTS in the couples where the woman was HIV-positive. There were no significant gender differences for alcohol abuse risk. 

Conclusions. The findings demonstrated high levels of IPV in HIV-serodiscordant couples and a significant gender difference in mental health risk such as PTS in such relationships, particularly where the woman was HIV-positive. HIV intervention programmes should address gender-based violence and inequity among heterosexual couples.

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