Longitudinal Analysis of Syndemic Psychosocial Problems Predicting HIV Risk Behavior among a Multicity Prospective Cohort of Sexually Active Young Transgender Women in the United States

Matthew J. Mimiaga*, Jaclyn M.W. Hughto, Katie B. Biello, Christopher M. Santostefano, Lisa M. Kuhns, Sari L. Reisner, Robert Garofalo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background:Worldwide, young transgender women (YTW) contend with exceptionally high risks of HIV infection. Cross-sectional studies have suggested that co-occurring epidemics or "syndemics" of psychosocial problems may accelerate HIV acquisition and transmission through elevated sexual risk behavior among transgender women. We aimed to examine how a syndemic of 7 psychosocial problems potentiates HIV sexual risk behavior among a multicity, longitudinal cohort of sexually active YTW in the United States.Methods:Between 2012 and 2015, 233 YTW from Boston, MA, and Chicago, IL, completed behavioral surveys at baseline, 4, 8, and 12 months. We used generalized estimating equations to examine the prospective relationship of overlapping psychosocial problems and HIV sexual risk behavior (ie, condomless anal or vaginal sex) among YTW.Results:The prevalence of 7 psychosocial syndemic problems was substantial at baseline and remained high at each time point: 6.4% reported polydrug use in the past 4 months (excluding stimulants); 7.7% reported heavy alcohol use in the past 4 months; 10% reported a history of childhood sexual abuse; 15.9% reported stimulant use in the past 4 months; 41.7% reported experiencing lifetime intimate partner violence; 42.1% reported clinically significant depressive symptoms 68.6% reported lifetime transgender-specific victimization. We identified a statistically significant positive "dose-response" relationship between the number of psychosocial syndemic problems and condomless anal or vaginal sex over time.Conclusions:The accumulation of "syndemic" psychosocial problems predicted HIV sexual risk behavior in a prospective cohort of YTW. Given the high prevalence of psychosocial problems and HIV sexual risk behavior, as well as having the highest HIV incidence among any risk group, the HIV prevention agenda requires a shift toward improved assessment of psychosocial comorbidities and stronger integration with gender-affirming and supportive mental health, violence recovery, and addiction treatment services for this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)184-192
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes
Volume81
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019

Keywords

  • HIV
  • drug and alcohol use
  • intimate partner violence
  • mental health
  • sexual risk behavior
  • syndemic
  • transgender women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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