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Physiological Changes from Violence-Induced Stress and Trauma Enhance HIV Susceptibility Among Women


Purpose of review

This theoretical review identifies physiological mechanisms by which violence against women (VAW) may increase women's susceptibility to HIV through trauma, stress, and immune dysfunction.

Recent findings

Research documents systemic and local immune responses are related to stress and trauma from abuse across the life course (i.e., childhood, IPV, adulthood re-victimization). Findings are interpreted within a theoretical framework grounded in the Social Stress Theory and the concept of toxic stress, and highlight the current state of the science connecting: (1) VAW to the physiological stress response and immune dysfunction, and (2) the physiological stress response and inflammation to HIV susceptibility and infection in the female reproductive tract. Despite a dearth of research in human subjects, evidence suggests that VAW plays a significant role in creating a physiological environment conducive to HIV infection. We conclude with a discussion of promising future steps for this line of research.

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