Background: Food insecurity and violence are two major public health issues facing U.S. women. The link between food insecurity and violence has received little attention, particularly regarding the temporal ordering of events. The present study used data from the Women's Interagency Human Immunodeficiency Virus Study to investigate the longitudinal association of food insecurity and violence in a cohort of women at risk for or living with HIV.
Methods: Study participants completed six assessments from 2013-16 on food insecurity (operationalized as marginal, low, and very low food security) and violence (sexual or physical, and psychological). We used multi-level logistic regression, controlling for visits (level 1) nested within individuals (level 2), to estimate the association of experiencing violence.
Results: Among 2,343 women (8,528 visits), we found that victims of sexual or physical violence (odds ratio = 3.10; 95% confidence interval: 1.88, 5.19) and psychological violence (odds ratio = 3.00; 95% confidence interval: 1.67, 5.50) were more likely to report very low food security. The odds of experiencing violence were higher for women with very low food security at both the current and previous visit as compared to only the current visit. HIV status did not modify these associations.
Conclusions: Food insecurity was strongly associated with violence, and women exposed to persistent food insecurity were even more likely to experience violence. Food programs and policy must consider persistent exposure to food insecurity, and interpersonal harms faced by food insecure women, such as violence.