We explored the association between violence victimization and increased risk for acquiring sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in women by measuring cellular immune barrier properties from the female reproductive tract. STI-negative participants reporting repeated prior victimization occurrences through the lifetime trauma and victimization history (LTVH) instrument were more likely to exhibit alterations in barrier homeostasis and the composition of critical immune mediators irrespective of demographic parameters or presence of bacterial vaginosis. By combining cellular data with mixed-effect linear modeling, we uncovered differences in local T cells, MHCII+ antigen–presenting cells, and epithelial cells indicative of altered trafficking behavior, increased immunosuppressive function, and decreased barrier integrity at sites of STI exposure that correlate most strongly with LTVH score. These data evidence a biological link between a history of violence victimization and risk of STI acquisition through immune dysregulation in the female reproductive tract.
Alison Swaims-Kohlmeier, Lisa B. Haddad, Zheng-Rong Tiger Li, Kathryn A. Brookmeyer, James M. Baker, Cathy Spatz Widom, James C. Lamousin, Kai-Hua Chi, Cheng Y. Chen, Ellen N. Kersh, Jeffrey A. Johnson, Melissa M. Herbst-Kralovetz, Matthew Hogben, Igho Ofotokun, Jacob E. Kohlmeier