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Semin Pediatr Infect Dis. 2003 Jan;14(1):12-9.

Human immunodeficiency syndrome and hepatitis B and C infections among homeless adolescents.

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  • 1University of Memphis, Department of Psychology, Memphis, TN 38152, USA.


The lifestyle of homeless adolescents places them at high risk for contracting a variety of serious illnesses. The purpose of this cross-sectional study was to determine the predictors of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis infections among homeless youth. Anonymous and confidential interviewer-administered psychosocial surveys were conducted with 150 homeless youth (ages 14 to 23 years; 70% male). Venous blood samples were collected as well. Most respondents (95%) had engaged in sexual intercourse, with 13 years as the median age at first coitus. Approximately 36 percent indicated they had exchanged sex for food, shelter, or drugs. Although youth reported a high rate of consistent condom use, 16 percent of the sample tested positive for HIV, 17 percent tested positive for hepatitis B (HBV), and 12 percent tested positive for hepatitis C (HCV). Homeless youth should be considered a high-risk group for contracting HIV, HBV, and HCV infections. The positive rates for HIV, HBV, and HCV observed in this study are higher than those of many previous reports among street youth. Because HIV prevention and hepatitis B vaccination programs have been targeted at school-based youth, most homeless youth are missed by these efforts. Targeted programs are needed to reach this high-risk group. Suggested guidelines for clinicians involved in the provision of medical care to homeless children and adolescents are provided.

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