Brief Report

Community Mental Health Journal

, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 395-402

First online:

AIDS knowledge and high risk behaviors in the chronic mentally ill

  • Roger C. KatzAffiliated withPsychology Dept., University of the Pacific
  • , Carole WattsAffiliated withPsychology Dept., University of the Pacific
  • , Jennifer SantmanAffiliated withPsychology Dept., University of the Pacific

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Abstract

Chronic mentally ill adults are a high risk group for AIDS. In the present study, we used a questionnaire to assess AIDS knowledge, attitudes, and risk behaviors in 54 men and women who were clients at a “drop in” center for mentally ill adults. Most of the subjects were suffering from schizophrenia and about one-third of them had co-existing drug problems. Results showed widespread misunderstandings about AIDS transmission, high risk groups, and practices. Many of the subjects had been treated for STDs such as syphilis and gonorrhea and were engaging in behaviors that increased their vulnerability to AIDS. These include casual sex, anal sex, sex with an IV drug user, or sex in exchange for money, drugs, or a place to sleep. Subjects expressed a moderately high level of concern about acquiring AIDS/HIV, and 15% of those tested (5/33) said they already had the illness. We observed a significant correlation between misinformation about AIDS and the frequency of high risk behaviors. We also detected ambivalence about using condoms and IV drugs. Although males and females did not differ in AIDS knowledge or risk behaviors, the AIDS knowledge of both groups was significantly lower than a comparison sample of public high school students. Taken together, the results underscore the immediate need for comprehensive AIDS assessment, education, and prevention in this segment of the population.