HIV-related risk among justice- involved young African American women in the U.S. South

Incarceration rates have increased exponentially among women, and racial disparities in justice involvement persist. Coupled with disparities in HIV in the US South that begin early in the life course, it is important to explicate the relationship between justice involvement, HIV-related risk (such as illicit drug use and sexual risk), and service needs for young African American women. This study examined the association of previous arrest, biological and self-reported HIV-related risk, and reported service needs at baseline among 646 African American women aged 18 to 25 who were recruited as part of an HIV-risk reduction trial. Approximately 24% of participants reported previously being arrested. In adjusted analyses, several substance use and sexual risk variables were found to be significant, including increased odds of positive screens for both cocaine (AOR: 3.09; 95% CI [1.49, 6.41]) and marijuana (AOR: 1.82; 95% CI [1.17, 2.83]), trading sex for goods (AOR: 2.23; 95% CI [1.14, 4.38]), and recent sexually transmitted infections (AOR: 1.84; 95% CI [1.03, 3.27]). Previous arrest was associated with greater service needs, including violence-related (AOR: 4.42; 95% CI [2.03, 9.64]), parenting (AOR: 2.92; 95 CI% [1.65, 5.17]), and housing (AOR: 2.38; 95% CI [1.54, 3.67)]). The study findings indicate the increased risk across both HIV-related substance use and sexual risk and the service needs for African American women in emerging adulthood who have been arrested. These disparities suggest the importance of interventions to address the specific needs of this population at a critical period to not only prevent HIV but also address social determinants.