Domestic Violence Screening: Prevalence and Outcomes in a Canadian HIV Population
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There is a strong association between domestic violence victimization and HIV infection. This may lead to poor health outcomes including mental health disorders and reduced access to care. A standardized domestic violence screening interview was incorporated into ongoing care in the large and diverse population living with HIV in Southern Alberta, Canada. Results from May through December 2009 are reported, including the prevalence and outcomes of abuse. Thirty-four percent of 853 patients screened reported abuse. Of these, 16% reported abuse in their current relationship, 58% in a previous relationship, and 57% reported a history of childhood abuse. High-risk groups for abuse included females (43%), gay/bisexual males (35%), and Aboriginals (61%). We found an association between a history of domestic violence and delayed access to care (p < 0.05), missed appointments (p < 0.001), and an increased use of clinic resources such as social work (p < 0.0001) and psychiatry (p < 0.001). Mental health conditions prior to HIV diagnosis, including depression (p < 0.0001), suicidal ideation (p < 0.0001), and anxiety disorder (p < 0.0001) were associated with abuse at any time, while a history of adjustment disorder was associated with childhood abuse (p < 0.05). A simple domestic violence screening tool was helpful for identifying patients experiencing abuse in our diverse HIV-infected population. This high prevalence of domestic violence among our HIV patients was associated with poor outcomes and an increased use of medical resources. HIV caregivers should be aware of domestic violence in order to optimize care and refer patients to appropriate support professionals as needed.