JMIR public health and surveillance 2018 04 104(2) e39 doi 10.2196/publichealth.9020
Homeless youth continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV compared with their housed peers, with prevalence rates as high as 13%. Yet, HIV prevention in this high-risk population has been only marginally effective.
The aim of this study was to use ecological momentary assessments to examine real-time factors to determine the predictors of sexual activity among homeless youth.
Youth experiencing homelessness aged between 18 and 24 years were recruited from a drop-in center in Houston, Texas, between August 2015 and May 2016. All the participants received a study-issued mobile phone that prompted brief ecological momentary assessments (EMAs) 5 times a day for 21 days. EMA items assessed near real-time sexual behaviors, cognitions, stress, affect, environmental factors, and environmental circumstances.
Participants (N=66) were predominantly male (41/66, 64%) and black (43/66, 66%) with a median age of 20 years. The mean number of EMAs completed by each participant was 45 out of 105 possible observations. During the study, 70% (46/66) of participants were sexually active and reported condomless sex in 102 of the 137 cases of sexual intercourse (74.5%). In total, 82% (38/46) of the youth who reported having sex during the 3 weeks of data collection also reported engaging in high-risk sexual activities, including having condomless sex (24/46, 53%), having multiple sexual partners on the same day (12/46, 26%), trading sex (7/46, 16%), and sharing needles while injecting drugs (1/46, 3%). Of those, 71% (27/38) were engaged in multiple sexual risk behaviors. The predictive model was based on observations from 66 subjects who reported 137 cases of sexual intercourse over 811 days; sexual orientation, race, mental health, drug use, and sexual urge were included as predictors in the parsimonious generalized linear mixed model selected on the basis of the Akaike information criterion. The estimated odds ratios (ORs) were notable for same-day drug use (OR 2.17, 95% CI 4.48-17.31; P<.001) and sexual urge (OR 1.44, 95% CI 1.60-11.28; P=.004). The performance of the risk estimator was satisfactory, as indicated by the value of 0.834 for the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve. CONCLUSIONS
Real-time EMA data can be used to predict sexual intercourse among a sample of high-risk, predominately unsheltered homeless youth. Sexual urge and drug use accounts for increased odds of engaging in sexual activity on any given day. Interventions targeting sexual urge and drug use may help predict sexual activity among a population at high risk of HIV.