A recent American study has shown that about one in three women living in rural Uganda experiences verbal or physical threats from their partners. Fifty percent of them receive injuries as a result.
Findings from the study, conducted by John Hopkins University, highlight the links between domestic violence and the consumption of alcohol, as well as a partner's perceived risk of HIV-infection.
"Although further research is clearly needed, our findings provide important indirect evidence that domestic violence may represent a significant factor in increasing women's vulnerability to HIV acquisition in settings such as Uganda," said Dr Michael Koenig who led the study.
"Fear of HIV infection may lead women to avoid sex with their partner, which in turn may precipitate threats of violence or physical abuse," the report said.
Koenig added that current programmes to prevent the spread of HIV could be overlooking domestic violence as a key behavioural dimension of HIV transmission.
A total of 70 percent of male respondents and 90 percent of female respondents viewed beating of a female partner as justifiable in one or more circumstances. The top three reasons cited for being assaulted were neglecting household chores, disobeying a husband or elders, and refusal to have sex.
Only five percent of women said they had physically threatened or assaulted their male partners during the previous year.
Overall, 5,109 women and 3,881 men living in Rakai District of Uganda were surveyed, an area at the centre of the country's HIV/AIDS epidemic.
[Findings of the study are published in the January 2003 edition of the Bulletin of the World Health Organisation at www.who.int/bulletin/]
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