New research raises the question of a link between childhood sexual abuse and a higher risk for HIV/AIDS.
The study, conducted by Drexel University, tracked 40,000 people, including a significant number of blacks and Hispanics. The data suggests that not only was childhood sexual abuse linked to risky sexual behavior as an adolescent or adult, but could also impact getting tested, diagnosed and starting treatment once infected with HIV.
According to Dr. Theresa Sweet, one of the study authors at the Drexel University School of Public Health, “childhood sexual abuse was defined as being touched or fondled in a sexual way, [or] forced or attempted sexual intercourse before the age of 17.”
Data from the Black Women’s Health Imperative has long pointed to high rates of sexual abuse in the black community. It shows that 40 percent of black women have experienced some form of sexual assault or abuse.
“This study is not designed to further stigmatize men and women who experienced some form of sexual abuse or violence, nor is it a suggestion that all people living with HIV were previously abused,” Sweet says.
“We don’t really know why some people who are abused fair better than others, but we do know that some people who can talk about what happened to them and have a support system, whether it be family, mental health support seem to [do] better,” she adds.