Recently Homeless Youth More Likely To Engage in Risky Sex, Increasing Risk of HIV, Other STIs, Study Says
Youth who recently have become homeless are more likely than other youth to engage in risky sexual behavior that can lead to the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, according to a study published in the Jan. 3 online edition of the Journal of Adolescent Health, ANI/Daily India reports.
For the study, researchers at the University of California-Los Angeles AIDS Institute -- led by M. Rosa Solorio, assistant professor of family medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA -- identified 261 youth ages 12 to 20 in Los Angeles County. The youth had been homeless for a period of one day to six months, and the researchers tracked them for two years. The youth were interviewed at the beginning of the study and at three, six, 12, 18 and 24 months after the study began about symptoms of depression, substance abuse, living arrangements, number of sexual partners and condom use.
According to the study, 77% of the youth were sexually active at the beginning of the study, compared with 85% at the end of the study. According to the study, female participants were less likely to use condoms if they were living in nonfamily situations or abused drugs. Drug abuse was found to be the primary indicator of risky sexual behavior among female participants, and male participants who lived without their family members or who abused drugs were more likely to have multiple sex partners, the study found. The study also found that U.S. or foreign-born Hispanic female participants were less likely to have multiple sex partners than female participants of other groups.
"While gender and some racial/ethnic differences in predictors of sexual risk were found in this study, living with nonfamily members and drug use appear to be the most salient in explaining sexual risk," according to the authors. The authors added that "interventions aimed at reducing sexual risk behaviors, and thereby reducing [STIs] and HIV among newly homeless youth, need to help youth find housing associated with supervision and social support ... as well as aim to reduce drug use." Solorio said that the study's findings are "important" because previous interventions "have focused on addressing individual risk behavior and not on addressing structural factors, such as living situations that might have an impact" on risky sexual behavior (ANI/Daily India, 1/7).
An abstract of the study is available online.