Gina: I often tell people HIV doesn’t care how much money you have in your bank account. HIV is a disease of opportunity. And the dynamics to which even more when it’s intimate partner violence involved in that.
Lynnea: I didn’t even identify with being in a violent relationship because I thought it was – that was right. I never looked at unhealthy relationships and saw myself.
Maria: Many times, they used HIV against me. You should be glad that you have someone to love you, because who’s going to want you with HIV.
Gina: We’re with these men who are abusive, and they don’t want to use condoms, or they don’t want us to go to the doctor.
Vicky: Living with HIV is nothing to be ashamed of, and it’s changing those voices in your head, because when you’re repeatedly told that you’re stupid, that you’re no good, you begin to repeat that in your head. Maria: Why are my t-cells always so low? And that’s because of the stress and the depression.
Lynnea: I knew if I gave him a chance to say ‘I’m sorry,” if I gave him a chance to say, “I didn’t mean to do it,” then I would probably still be there today.
Michelle: I waited til he went to work, I acted like nothing was going on, I got out. And I ain’t look back [women laugh] I left. When I left, I left.
Gina: It’s about me being healthy, it’s about me being well. And me getting what I need out of all of this.
Maria: With new treatments, there is hope.
Vicky: And we can live a normal lifespan, and it doesn’t change any of our worth. At all. Michelle: I found that there is life outside of this diagnosis. It was just waiting for me to find it.
One in three women in the U.S. experiences abuse from an intimate partner, including physical and/or emotional abuse. For women with HIV, it is one in two. And the connection goes both ways.
In conversation with Tonya Lewis Lee, meet the five incredible women living with HIV and have experienced intimate partner violence who share their stories to end the cycle.