When HIV-prevention messages and gender norms clash: the impact of domestic violence on women's HIV risk in slums of Chennai, India

AIDS Behav. 2003 Sep;7(3):263-72. doi: 10.1023/a:1025443719490.


This paper examines how marital violence affects women's ability to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS. In-depth interviews (n = 48) and focus groups (n = 84, 3-7 per group) were conducted among men and women in two randomly selected slums of Chennai, India. The study showed that community gender norms tacitly sanction domestic violence that interferes with adopting HIV-preventive behaviors. Given the choice between the immediate threat of violence and the relatively hypothetical specter of HIV, women often resign themselves to sexual demands and indiscretions that may increase their risk of HIV acquisition. In conclusion, AIDS-prevention interventions must incorporate gender-related social contexts in settings where husbands strictly enforce their locus of control. HIV-prevention messages targeting men may effectively reduce women's exposure to HIV/AIDS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude
  • Domestic Violence*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Gender Identity*
  • HIV Infections / ethnology*
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • India / ethnology
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Male
  • Marriage*
  • Risk Factors