This article explores the relationship between domestic violence and the victim’s HIV status. The presence of HIV or AIDS changes the very nature of domestic abuse, including partners threatening to disclose the victim’s status if he/she tries to leave the relationship, interference with medical care, the inability of the victim to insist upon condom use, and possible intentional infection. The HIV-related stigma also greatly affects the ability of victims to openly discuss their abuse when they bring legal action, because hearings are held in open courtrooms where statements are recorded and viewable by the public. When open discussion of how HIV relates to abuse is stymied, it can affect the ability judges to adequately understand the nature of an abusive situation.
The author suggests changing the setup of courtrooms and hearings in order to provide domestic violence victims with a more private environment in which to tell their story. Such changes “will allow litigants to receive more effective legal responses,” because it will allow judges and legislators to “award relief that responds to the actual domestic violence experience.” The author also recommends raising awareness among attorneys of HIV-related domestic violence and including medical interventions at centralized intake centers for victims of abuse.