Thursday, October 23, 2014

HIV and Domestic Violence

(Trigger/Content warning: This post contains references to abuse that readers may find to be triggering.)

I am accustomed to seeing sad stories. In the impoverished district where I am employed as an HIV physician, domestic violence and HIV are common bedfellows. But this case was especially disheartening.

A shy mother of one, she had one failed marriage behind her when she met him online in a dating site for singles with HIV/AIDS.  Dating had been challenging for her as an HIV+ single mother, so she was glad to find someone kind and suitable who also shared her HIV status. After a lengthy courtship and many visits back and forth, he proposed and she accepted. They wed and she and her teenage daughter relocated so that they could start their new life together.

Things eventually deteriorated and he became abusive. Although he was a good stepfather and a good provider, the physical abuse was devastating to her. After an especially volatile brawl two years into their marriage, she'd had enough. She decided to leave. However, her daughter was unhappy about moving again, especially in the middle of the school year. She begged her mother to let her remain to finish the school year.

She was reluctant, but her daughter was a conscientious student and would lose the entire year if she was moved. And though her husband had struck her many times, he had never once hit her daughter. She decided that she would leave her with her stepfather and return to her hometown to secure a job and a flat. She would retrieve her daughter upon the completion of the school year.

Upon her return, she discovered terrible news. Her husband had molested her daughter in her absence. Not only was her daughter now also HIV+, she was now pregnant with her stepfather's child.

She went to the police and pressed charges. He was arrested and sentenced to prison for his crime. The mother and daughter are patients in my HIV clinic and I share their story with permission.

(Dr. Ed Mulago)

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