The U.S. female criminal justice (CJ) population is rapidly growing, yet large-scale studies exploring gender-specific HIV risk behaviors in the CJ population are lacking. This analysis uses baseline data on adults with a CJ history from eight U.S. studies in an NIH-funded "Seek, Test, Treat, Retain" harmonization consortium. Data were collected using a standardized HIV risk behavior assessment tool and pooled across studies to describe participants' characteristics and risk behaviors. Multilevel mixed-effects logistic regression models were used to test for gender-based behavior differences. Among 784 HIV-positive (21.4% female) and 5521 HIV-negative (8.5% female) participants, HIV-positive women had higher odds than HIV-positive men of engaging in condomless sexual intercourse (AOR 1.84 [1.16-2.95]) with potentially sero-discordant partners (AOR 2.40 [1.41-4.09]) and of sharing injection equipment (AOR 3.36 [1.31-8.63]). HIV risk reduction interventions targeting CJ-involved women with HIV are urgently needed as this population may represent an under-recognized potential source of HIV transmission.
Keywords: Criminal justice system; HIV/AIDS; Injection drug use risk behaviors; Sexual risk behaviors; Women and gender differences.