HIV Risk High in Poor Neighborhoods

Stress experienced by males leads to drug use, needle sharing

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FRIDAY, Jan. 28, 2005 (HealthDayNews) -- Stress experienced by males who live in disadvantaged urban neighborhoods may put them at increased risk for HIV infection, says a study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

They reviewed data from a survey of 701 injection drug users in Baltimore. The results indicated that feelings of hopelessness or psychological distress are greater in disadvantaged neighborhoods. This stress in males results in greater use of injection drugs and needle sharing, which increases the risk of contracting HIV.

The study did not find a clear correlation between stress and frequency of injection drug use among females. The findings appear in the January issue of Health Psychology.

"Past studies have shown a consistent relationship between socioeconomic status and health, but the ways in which neighborhood characteristics impact health behaviors are poorly understood," study author Carl A. Latkin, an associate professor in the department of health policy and management, said in a prepared statement.

"Our findings show how neighborhood characteristics and stressors, such as crime, abandoned buildings, loitering, unemployment, crowding and litter lead to greater depression. Individuals who have high levels of depression tend to take more illicit drugs and engage in more risk behaviors," Latkin said.

"As it is not feasible or desirable to treat large numbers of depressed individuals with therapy or medication, preventive interventions are needed to address impoverished neighborhood residents' physical and social disorder," he noted.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about drug abuse and AIDS.

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, news release, Jan. 24, 2005

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