Prevalence and Co-Occurrence of Violence, Substance Use and Disorder, and HIV Risk Behavior

A Comparison of Sheltered and Low-Income Housed Women in Los Angeles County

Published in: Preventive Medicine, v. 39, no. 3, Sep. 2004 p. 617-624

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2004

by Suzanne L. Wenzel, Joan S. Tucker, Marc N. Elliott, Katrin Hambarsoomian, Judith F. Perlman, Kirsten Becker, Crystal Kollross, Daniela Golinelli

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BACKGROUND: Violence against women, substance use and disorder, and HIV represent three significant threats to the health of women, yet little is known about the extent of these epidemics among indigent women. This study investigates and documents differences in the prevalence and co-occurrence of physical and sexual violence, substance use and disorder, and HIV risk behavior in sizable probability samples of sheltered homeless and low-income housed women. METHODS: Retrospective self-reports were obtained through structured interviews with stratified random samples of women residing in shelters (N = 460) and low-income housing (N = 438) in Los Angeles County, California. RESULTS: Sheltered women were more likely than housed women to report experiencing physical and sexual violence, substance use and disorder, HIV risk behavior, and co-occurrence of these problems in the past year. Differences remained when propensity weights were used to equate the groups on demographic and background characteristics. CONCLUSIONS: Findings suggest remarkable need for services among communities of indigent women. Higher rates of problems among women in shelters highlight the importance of differentiating among subgroups of indigent women in community-based prevention and intervention activities and tentatively suggest a protective influence of housing.

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