REFERENCE: Fisher, B., Hovell, M., Hofstetter, C. R., Hough, R. (1995). Risks associated with long-term homelessness among women: Battery, rape, and HIV infection. International Journal of Health Services, 25, 351-369.
The purposes of this study were to determine the prevalence of battery, rape, and HIV risk practices in a sample of long-term homeless women and to explore correlates of HIV risk practices. Fifty-three women who had been homeless for at least three months last year were interviewed at day and night shelters. The women were demographically similar to their samples of homeless men and women and had similar rates of drug use. However, a higher proportion of homeless women were exposed to battery (91 percent), rape (56 percent), and mental distress, and they had a smaller support network (three people). Eighty-six percent had been battered prior to homelessness. A positive association was found between HIV risk practices and the use of certain drugs and having a protector. A higher level of assertiveness was associated with less HIV risk. The study demonstrated that homeless women are at very high risk of battery and rape. Being homeless may require life-styles that increase the risk of HIV infection and transmission.