Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome and adolescents. Knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of runaway and homeless youths

Am J Dis Child. 1991 Apr;145(4):431-6. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.1991.02160040089014.


Objective: To describe the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of runaway and homeless youths regarding infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Design: Cross-sectional, descriptive.

Setting: A crisis shelter for runaway and homeless youths.

Participants: One hundred one residents, aged 13 to 20 years, of a shelter for homeless and runaway youths in Houston, Tex.

Intervention: None.

Measurements/main results: A self-administered questionnaire was used to examine the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of these youths regarding infection with HIV. Nearly one fourth had injected illegal drugs; one fifth had shared needles for other purposes. Sixteen percent had had anal intercourse, 19% had engaged in prostitution, and 67% of all subjects reported having four or more sexual partners. One fifth reported that they always use condoms. While quite knowledgeable about means of transmission, they held prevalent misconceptions about casual contact and risk reduction. Youths perceive few barriers to condom use, have fairly high intentions to practice preventive behavior, and have high self-efficacy to do so. Most believe they are at little or no risk for acquiring HIV. These findings support the need for medical, educational, and social service programs to reduce the risk of HIV among these youths.

Conclusion: Runaway and homeless youths practice behaviors that place them at high risk for acquisition of HIV infection. Risk reduction is imperative and will require programs that address the educational, psychological, social, and medical needs of these youths.

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / prevention & control*
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / transmission
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Care Facilities
  • Contraceptive Devices, Male / statistics & numerical data
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • HIV Seroprevalence
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Ill-Housed Persons / psychology*
  • Psychology, Adolescent
  • Risk Factors
  • Runaway Behavior*
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / complications
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Texas / epidemiology