Original Paper

AIDS and Behavior

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 856-864

First online:

Rates and Correlates of HIV and STI Infection Among Homeless Women

  • Carol L. M. CatonAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, Columbia UniversityDivision of Clinical Phenomenology, New York State Psychiatric Institute Email author 
  • , Nabila El-BasselAffiliated withSchool of Social Work, Columbia University
  • , Andrew GelmanAffiliated withDepartment of Statistics, Columbia University
  • , Susan BarrowAffiliated withDivision of Epidemiology, New York State Psychiatric Institute
  • , Daniel HermanAffiliated withSilberman School of Social Work, Hunter College
  • , Eustace HsuAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Southern California
  • , Ana Z. TochtermanAffiliated withDivision of Mental Health Services and Policy Research, New York State Psychiatric Institute
  • , Karen JohnsonAffiliated withSchool of Social Work, Columbia University
  • , Alan FelixAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, Columbia University

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We studied the prevalence of biologically confirmed HIV, Chlamydia, and gonorrhea in a randomly selected sample of sheltered homeless women in New York City, and explored their association with demographic, homeless history, and clinical risk factors. 329 women were randomly selected from 28 family and single adult shelters. The estimated prevalence of HIV in the study sample is 0.6 % (±0.3 %); for Chlamydia it is 6.7 % (±2.2 %); for gonorrhea it is 0.9 % (±0.04 %). A history of childhood sexual abuse, arrest history, current psychotic symptoms, and substance use disorder placed women at greater risk of infection. We consider contextual factors that may yield underestimates of HIV prevalence in our sample and discuss how a more comprehensive prevalence estimate might be constructed. Findings underscore the importance of offering HIV/STI testing, counseling, and HIV risk prevention interventions to homeless women and suggest that interventions should be tailored to the needs of specific subgroups of homeless women.


HIV STI Homeless women