Young homeless girls are more prone to sexually transmitted diseases than their male counterparts because of their social groups and friendships, discovers new study.
The new research from UC San Francisco found how the social networks of homeless youth can be highly influential, affecting their participation in risky and protective behaviors.
The study examined the relationship between STI rates and the characteristics of the social networks of 258 homeless young people ages 15 to 24 in San Francisco.
The youth were surveyed about their housing status, risky behaviors and social networks. They also were tested for Chlamydia and gonorrhea.
The researchers found that the homeless young women had lower condom use and a higher likelihood of sex with intravenous drug users than the homeless young men.
The women also showed a trend toward higher rates of sexually transmitted infections.
Lead author Annie Valente, MD, who conducted the research while a medical student at UCSF, said that her team thought that homeless young women may be at higher risk in part because of whom they had access to in their network.
She said that social networks are proving to be a very important indicator for other health outcomes, including obesity and cigarette smoking.
Study participants were homeless for two nights or more during the previous six months.
Each participant took a computer-based survey, and created a table reflecting their social networks from the previous three months.
They listed people to whom they felt close, sex partners, injection partners, and people with whom they had shared resources.
The study will be published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.