, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 357-372

HIV seroprevalence and risk behaviors among clients attending a clinic for the homeless in Miami/Dade County, Florida, 1990–1996

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Abstract

In the early 1990s, HIV seroprevalence was highest at the Miami homeless clinic among 16 homeless sites participating in a nationwide sentinel survey. To examine dynamic seroprevalence patterns in Miami's homeless clients in relation to demographics and risk behaviors over six years, we analyzed data from an unlinked (blinded) serosurvey of clients attending the principal primary care clinic serving Miami's homeless. Data were from 3,797 medical encounters with homeless persons who, on their initial clinic visit within an annual survey period, received routine serologic testing and a risk behavior survey. Overall HIV seroprevalence was 15.9% and infection rates for men (16.4%) and women (14.5%) did not differ. Seroprevalence for blacks (19.9%) was significantly higher than for Hispanics (9.1%) or whites (8.3%) (p < 0.0001). Seroprevalence was 12.6% (35 times the national rate) for clients reporting heterosexual contact as their only risk. Significant increases in seroprevalence, above this heterosexual-contact-only 'baseline', were found for clients disclosing high-risk behaviors: male-to-male sex, drug injection, receiving or giving money/drugs for sex, and sexual contact with a drug injector or HIV-infected partner (p < 0.0001). Seroprevalence declined over six years from 23.2 to 7.2% (p < 0.0001). Significant downward trends were observed for men and women, blacks and Hispanics, men who have sex with men, and clients reporting heterosexual contact. The proportion of clients reporting high-risk behaviors decreased sharply (p < 0.0001). Elevated HIV seroprevalence in Miami's homeless clients was strongly associated with high-risk behaviors. Expansion of HIV prevention and HIV/drug treatment services for homeless persons is strongly recommended.