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Witnessing crimes and other forms of violence in both childhood and adulthood has a profound effect on women -- it makes them more prone to having "risky" sex with a high number of sexual partners, a study has said.
Women who have been abused themselves were more likely to have unprotected sex, and use drugs or alcohol before having sex, said the study by the Miriam Hospital's Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine in the US.
According to the Daily Mail, the findings offer a new insight on the link between exposure to violence and HIV risk behaviour, particularly among low-income, urban women.
"Sadly, our results show that many women must cope with multiple forms of violence, and that some combinations of violent experiences put women at risk for HIV, other STDs or unplanned pregnancy - not to mention the risks from the violence itself," said lead author Jennifer Walsh.
The study included 481 women attending an urban STD clinic. They were assessed for previous history of violence and current sexual risk-taking behaviour.
The women were primarily African American and most were socio-economically disadvantaged, the daily said.
The team found women who reported experiencing multiple forms of violence and those who were exposed to community violence had the highest levels of sexual risk behaviour, including a large number of sexual partners and alcohol and drug use before sex.
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