HIV risk behaviors and their relationship to posttraumatic stress disorder among women prisoners

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112 Scopus citations


Objective: This study assessed HIV risk behaviors and their association with psychiatric disorders among women prisoners. Methods: HIV risk behaviors practiced in the five years before incarceration were ascertained with the Risk Behavior Assessment interview for 177 inmates at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women. The Structured Clinical Interview for the DSM-IV was used to determine the occurrence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depression, and dysthymic disorder among the women. Regression models were used to determine the association between HIV risk behavior and psychiatric disorders. Results: HIV risk behaviors in the five years before incarceration included never or rarely having used condoms (56 percent of the women), injection drug use (42 percent), sexual intercourse with a partner who used injection drugs (42 percent), prostitution (30 percent), needle sharing (30 percent), receptive anal sex (19 percent), and having more than 100 sex partners (7 percent). After the analysis adjusted for age, education, race, HIV status, and addictive disorders, a lifetime occurrence of PTSD was associated with the practice of anal sex (odds ratio=1.7; 95 percent confidence interval=1.26 to 2.16; p<.02) and prostitution (OR=1.56; 95% CI=1.17 to 1.95; p<.03). Conclusions: HIV risk behaviors before incarceration were highly prevalent among the women in this study. Rates of PTSD, depression, and dysthymic disorder were also high. PTSD was associated with prostitution and receptive anal sex, and the disorder may contribute to high rates of risky sexual behavior. Targeted HIV risk reduction efforts among women prisoners should include evaluation for PTSD; conversely, women prisoners with a diagnosis of PTSD should be evaluated for prior HIV sexual risk behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)508-513
Number of pages6
JournalPsychiatric Services
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 18 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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