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To determine the prevalence of life-time domestic violence by the current partner before HIV-1 testing, its impact on the uptake of prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) interventions and frequency after testing.A prospective cohort.Antenatally, women and their partners were interviewed regarding physical, financial, and psychological abuse by the male partner before HIV-1 testing and 2 weeks after receiving results.Before testing, 804 of 2836 women (28%) reported previous domestic violence, which tended to be associated with increased odds of HIV-1 infection [univariate odds ratio (OR) 1.7, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.3–2.2; P < 0.0001, adjusted OR 1.2, 95% CI 0.9–1.6; P = 0.1], decreased odds of coming with partners for counseling (adjusted OR 0.7, 95% CI 0.5–1.0; P = 0.04), and decreased odds of partner notification (adjusted OR 0.7, 95% CI 0.5–1.1; P = 0.09). Previous domestic violence was not associated with a reduced uptake of HIV-1 counseling, HIV-1 testing, or nevirapine. After receiving results, 15 out of 1638 women (0.9%) reported domestic violence. After notifying partners of results, the odds of HIV-1-seropositive women reporting domestic violence were 4.8 times those of HIV-1-seronegative women (95% CI 1.4–16; P = 0.01). Compared with women, men reported similar or more male-perpetrated domestic violence, suggesting a cultural acceptability of violence.Domestic violence before testing may limit partner involvement in PMTCT. Although infrequent, immediate post-test domestic violence is more common among HIV-1-infected than uninfected women. Domestic violence prevention programmes need to be integrated into PMTCT, particularly for HIV-1-seropositive women.