Online Program

Raw down: HIV risk among adolescent gang members

Monday, November 4, 2013

Katherine Quinn, PhD, Center for AIDS Intervention Research, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI
Meridith Mueller, MPH, Center for AIDS Intervention Research, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI
Julia Dickson-Gomez, PhD, Center for AIDS Intervention Research, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI
Background: Adolescents and young adults, particularly African Americans and Latinos, are disproportionately affected by, and at risk for, STIs and HIV. Adolescent gang members experience additional risks, including increased use of drugs and alcohol, dating violence, and multiple sexual partners. This study qualitatively explores the unique HIV risks of adolescent gang members.

Methods: This study uses data collected from 43 interviews with adolescent members of four Milwaukee gangs. Participants were 14 to 19 years old, with male and female, and African American and Latino participants recruited through research staff or via referral of contacts by study participants. We transcribed, coded, and analyzed interviews for key themes and patterns using MAXQDA.

Results: Findings suggest that overall, HIV risk is high among adolescent gang members. While some of this risk is evident across adolescents in general, gang members have additional experiences including multiple sexual partners, group or train sex, and sex as initiation into a gang, placing them at higher risk for HIV. These risk behaviors are central to, and enforced by gang culture, making them especially difficult to avoid or mitigate, particularly for female gang members.

Conclusions: It is clear that adolescent gang members are a particularly high-risk group that deserve increased attention and focus for HIV prevention initiatives. The structure and culture of gangs, although quite variable, makes it difficult to reach gang members through traditional HIV prevention initiatives. Future phases of this project will assist in developing a targeted, multilevel, HIV intervention for gang members.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Explain the HIV and STI sexual risks unique to male and female adolescent gang members Explain how gang culture and norms contribute to risky sexual practices

Keyword(s): HIV Risk Behavior, Adolescents

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a doctoral student in the Medical College of Wisconsin's Public and Community Health program and conducted the qualitative data analysis for this project.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.