Original Article

Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 127-135

First online:

History of Traumatic Abuse and HIV Risk Behaviorsin Severely Mentally Ill Substance Abusing Adults

  • Robert M. MalowAffiliated withAIDS Prevention Program, Florida International UniversityFlorida International University, College of Health and Urban Affairs, Stempel School of Public Health AIDS Prevention Program Email author 
  • , Jessy G. DévieuxAffiliated withAIDS Prevention Program, Florida International University
  • , Ligia MartinezAffiliated withAIDS Prevention Program, Florida International University
  • , Fred PeipmanAffiliated withAIDS Prevention Program, Florida International University
  • , Barbara A. LucenkoAffiliated withUniversity of Washington
  • , Seth C. KalichmanAffiliated withUniversity of Connecticut

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Epidemiological studies in the United States estimate HIV seroprevalence rates ranging between 4% and 23% for serious mentally ill adults (SMIA; i.e., schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other chronic disorders with psychotic features), with substantially greater estimates for risky sexual behaviors. Among the most consistent factors linked to HIV risk in non-SMIA populations is a history of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. The current study examined the intersection of abuse history and HIV sexual risk behavior in SMIAs with a group of men (n = 64) and women (n = 115) recruited from eight geographically diverse and representative clinical sites around Florida. A cross-sectional interview revealed a high prevalence of alcohol and other drugs problems, as well as a history of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse in 75% of the participants, with 68% of these reporting multiple types of abuse. Compared to nonabused counterparts, those with a history of abuse reported significantly greater: (a) lifetime and current psychiatric symptoms, (b) recent unprotected sexual intercourse, and (c) crack cocaine, heroin, and marijuana use. No gender differences were detected in the associations of abuse history and sexual risk behaviors. These results underscore the need for HIV prevention efforts targeted to SMIAs and the critical importance of addressing abuse history in interventions with this underserved population.


abuse HIV risk factor traumatic