Partner Abuse Among HIV-Positive Sexual Minority Men: “That Was All I Deserved . . .”

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Abstract

Living with HIV can be both a precipitant and a consequence of partner abuse (PA) across populations, including male–male partnerships. However, overlapping experiences of living with HIV and experiencing PA are not well characterized. We conducted 24 qualitative interviews with urban HIV-positive sexual minority men (SMM) recruited from a public hospital HIV clinic in Seattle, Washington, who reported lifetime PA histories, and analyzed them using content analysis. Participants reported psychological, physical, and sexual victimization from partners, varying in severity. Themes included (a) how HIV and minority stress (e.g., through self-stigma, serosorting) and (b) familial and repeated exposure to violence (e.g., through normalization or acceptance of PA, partnering as strategy for increasing one’s own safety, esteem, or social status), independently and in combination, provided a context for the men’s victimization. Our findings suggest that PA-related interventions might focus on coping with stigma, expanding social networks, and educating SMM about dysfunctional relationship dynamics.

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