Childhood Sexual Abuse and Risk Behaviors Among Men at High Risk for HIV Infection
February 11, 2002
Mounting research suggests that men with a history of unwanted sexual activity during childhood are more likely than those without such a history to engage in sexual practices that place them a risk for contracting HIV. The purpose of the following study was to determine whether men with a history of unwanted sexual activity during childhood engaged in more high-risk sexual behaviors and reported more problems with alcohol and drug use than did men without such a history, and to determine the relative contribution of unwanted sexual activity during childhood and other risky health practices to high-risk sexual behaviors. Data for this study were obtained from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Multisite HIV Prevention Trial, a national study that enrolled predominantly African-American and Hispanic or Latino men and Latina women recruited from STD clinics and health service organizations.
Data were recorded on 2,676 men. The researchers measured unwanted sexual activity during childhood by response to the following question: "Before you were 13, did you ever have unwanted or uninvited sexual activity with anyone who was 5 or more years older than you?" Other questions probed subsequent sexual risk behaviors; bartering sex; unwanted sexual activity during adulthood; alcohol problems; drug use; and respondent demographics.
The researchers found that men with a history of unwanted sexual activity during childhood were significantly more likely than men without such history to report risky sexual behaviors, alcohol problems and drug use. Men who reported unwanted sexual activity during childhood were 6.79 times as likely as other men to report unwanted sexual activity since age 13.
In regression models that included unwanted sexual activity during childhood alone and with demographic and substance use variables, unwanted sexual activity during childhood were associated with a significant amount of the variation in frequency of unprotected sexual acts and number of partners. In addition, with adjustment for unwanted sexual activity in adulthood, a significant association remained between unwanted sexual activity during childhood and number of partners. These results suggest that men with a history of unwanted sexual activity during childhood are at greater risk for engaging in sexual practices that increase their chances of HIV infection.
"Although the findings of this study are limited to men who were at high risk for contracting HIV through risky sexual behavior, the results highlight the importance of childhood sexual abuse among men as a public health problem," the authors wrote. "In reducing sexual risk taking among such men, it might be useful to identify men who have experienced unwanted sexual activity during childhood to provide opportunities for counseling around these issues. Because the proportion of men in this sample reporting unwanted sexual activity during childhood was relatively high (25%), screening for unwanted sexual activity during childhood among men seeking care in STD clinics could be the first step in identifying men with abuse histories and should be included as part of the sexual history interview."
American Journal of Public Health
02.01.02; Vol. 92; No. 2: P. 214-219; Colleen DiIorio, Ph.D.; Tyler Hartwell, Ph.D.; Nellie Hansen, M.P.H.; for the NIMH Multisite HIV Prevention Trial Group
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.