Objective: To document the prevalence of tuberculosis (TB) skin test positivity among homeless adults in Los Angeles and determine whether certain characteristics of homelessness were risk factors for TB.
Design: Cross-sectional study.
Setting: Shelters, soup lines, and outdoor locations in the Skid Row and Westside areas of Los Angeles.
Participants: A representative sample of 260 homeless adults.
Measurements and main results: Tuberculosis tine test reactivity was measured. The overall prevalence of TB skin test positivity was 32%:40% in the inner-city Skid Row area and 14% in the suburban Westside area. Using multiple logistic regression, TB skin test positivity was found to be associated with living in crowded or potentially crowded shelter conditions, long-term homelessness, geographic area, history of a psychiatric hospitalization, and age.
Conclusions: Homeless adults living in congested inner-city areas are at high risk of both latent and active TB. Endemic risk factors and limited access to medical care support the need for aggressive treatment of active TB cases and innovative programs to ensure completion of prophylactic regimens by homeless individuals with latent infection.