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Strong association between sexual violence and African women acquiring HIV in Europe
Roger Pebody, 2016-07-19 16:20:00
Migrant African women who have acquired HIV since moving to
France are four times more likely to have experienced forced sex in France than
other migrant women, researchers reported at the 21st International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2016) in Durban
today. The study suggests that sexual violence is an important risk factor for
migrant women acquiring HIV while living in Europe.
Data come from a cohort of 977 women attending health
facilities in the Paris region. All participants were born in an African
country and were now living in France.
Interviews focused on the women’s life histories, exploring
key events both before and after migration, so as to understand the
interviewee’s family history, education and employment, sexual relationships,
and use of health services.
Most participants were born in countries in western and
central Africa, especially Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Mali, the Democratic Republic
of the Congo and Senegal. Around half the women had migrated to join a partner or
family members. Some had fled their country because they were under threat
from this cohort has previously demonstrated that not all African migrants who
are now living with HIV in European countries became HIV positive while they
were in Africa. Analysis of CD4 cell counts and life history data showed
that at least a quarter of those living with HIV were probably infected
after migration and while living in France. Moreover, periods
without a residence permit, secure housing or enough money were associated with
transactional and casual sexual relationships, likely contributing to HIV
The cohort includes 414 women who acquired HIV while living
in Africa, 156 women who acquired HIV after migration, and 407 women who were
not diagnosed with HIV.
During the life-history interview, women were asked if they
had ever been forced to have sex against their will. Experiences of childhood
sexual abuse (14 years and younger) were excluded from this analysis.
- Among HIV-negative women, 18% had experienced forced sex,
including 4% who experienced it while living in France.
- Among women who acquired HIV while living in France, 24% had
experienced forced sex, including 15% who experienced it while living in
Adjusting for demographic factors, migration history and
living conditions, the frequency of forced sex in France was four times higher
among women who had acquired HIV in France compared to that in HIV-negative women
(adjusted odds ratio 4.39).
Women who had acquired HIV before migration were not more likely to have experienced forced
sex in France.
Women who had migrated because of being threatened in their
country of origin were six times more likely to have experienced forced sex in
France (AOR 5.26). Similarly, not having stable housing in
France (AOR 3.94) or staying with friends or family (AOR 2.58) were associated
with a higher frequency of forced sex in France.
Women were most vulnerable to forced sex at the time of
sexual debut (typically, this was before migration) and during their first year