Prevalence of physical and sexual violence and psychological abuse among adolescents and young adults living with HIV in Zambia

Katherine G. Merrill, Jacquelyn C. Campbell, Michele R. Decker, John McGready, Virginia M. Burke, Jonathan K. Mwansa, Sam Miti, Christiana Frimpong, Caitlin E. Kennedy, Julie A. Denison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background Little is known about violence against HIV-positive adolescents and young adults (AYA) in sub-Saharan Africa. This analysis examines experiences of violence victimization, and the perpetrators of this violence, among AYA living with HIV, aged 15–24 years, in Zambia. Methods We analyzed baseline data from 272 AYA (60.1% female, 71.0% perinatally infected) enrolled in Project YES! (Youth Engaging for Success), a randomized controlled trial conducted in four HIV clinics in Ndola, Zambia. Violence measures were adapted from the ICAST-C and the WHO Multi-Country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence. Youth could report up to 12 perpetrator types for past-year experiences of violence. We estimated lifetime and past-year prevalence of physical violence, psychological abuse, and forced sex, disaggregated by sex and age group. Estimates were weighted using sex and age data from the 2013–14 Zambian Demographic and Health Survey to be representative of HIV-positive AYA in Zambia. Results Estimated lifetime prevalence of any violence victimization was 78.2%. Past-year prevalence was 72.0% among males and 74.5% among females. Almost half of AYA (46.1%) had ever experienced polyvictimization (2+ types of violence). Psychological abuse was most common (70.4% lifetime, 65.3% past-year), followed by physical violence (50.8% lifetime, 44.7% past-year) and forced sex (10.4% lifetime, 4.7% past-year). Among past-year victims, males experienced more violence than females from a friend/peer (74.3% vs. 45.1%, p<0.001); females experienced more violence than males from a romantic partner (33.3% vs. 5.0%, p<0.001), parent/caregiver (32.4% vs. 17.6%, p = 0.02), and stranger (19.7% vs. 5.2%, p<0.001). Conclusion The widespread and overlapping prevalence of multiple types of violence highlights the critical need for prevention and response efforts that are tailored to youths’ sex and the perpetrator type. Future research should explore violence victimization and HIV outcomes, and the measurement of psychological abuse and sexual violence, among HIV-positive AYA in the region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0235203
JournalPloS one
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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