Approximately 25%-50% of women with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including AIDS, are involved in abusive relationships. Numerous characteristics associated with a past history of abuse are also risk factors for STD infection, including multiple partner relationships, substance abuse, early age at first coitus, and partner control of the relationship. Research has identified psychological effects of previous abuse, including depression, minimal control in relationships, and decreased self-efficacy. These effects may prevent abused women with STDs from making behavioral changes to prevent recurrence and transmission of disease. Life history methodology was used to understand the context of the interrelationships between STD and woman abuse in 30 Mexican American and African American women's lives. A focus on the context of abused women's partner relationships and aspects of personal control within these relationships may facilitate effective behavioral change, risk reduction, and subsequent decrease in incidence of STDs and woman abuse.