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Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 1998 May;24(2):299-319.

Prevalence of HIV infection and HIV risk behaviors associated with living place: on-the-street homeless drug users as a special target population for public health intervention.

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Personalized Nursing Corporation, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104, USA.


The study described here examined the prevalence of HIV infection as a function of place of residence and high-risk behaviors in six subpopulations of out-of-treatment drug injectors and crack cocaine users who participated in the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Cooperative Agreement project. The subpopulations were blacks, Hispanics, and non-Hispanic whites sampled separately by gender. The research asked three questions: (a) Is the HIV infection rate higher among the on-the-street homeless than among those in other places of residence? (b) Do high-risk drug-related behaviors differ by housing status? and (c) What are the joint effects of high-risk drug-related behaviors and housing status on the probability of HIV infection? Overall, on-the-street homeless had a significantly higher HIV+ rate (19.0%) than the study population as a whole (11.2%). Rates differed by gender and race, with exceptionally high HIV+ rates for on-the-street homeless Hispanic males (29%) and females (32%) and for on-the-street homeless black females (38%). Having used drug works previously used by a HIV-infected person was a strong predictor of HIV+ status, as was frequency of drug injections and crack use. Having multiple sex partners was also a significant risk behavior. Findings argue against considering on-the-street homelessness as equivalent to shelter dwelling or aggregated homelessness for purposes of the AIDS epidemic. On-the-street homeless drug users were at strong risk for acquisition and transmission of HIV infection and therefore in need of targeted-racially relevant, ethnically relevant, and gender-relevant-public health interventions to help prevent the spread of AIDS.

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