This study examined factors that influenced perceptions of risk for getting HIV and AIDS among adult arrestees in Los Angeles who reported a history of injection drug use (IDU).
Despite high overall rates of risk due to sexual and drug-use behavior, only 20 percent of the sample (191 arrestees) believed that they were at greater risk for HIV and AIDs than the general population. Further, when IDUs engaged in specific risk behaviors compared with drug users who did not, perceived risk in several instances were apparently not reflective of actual behavior. Although the interpretation of these findings is difficult because some important questions cannot be answered with the data set, still the authors believe several practical implications can be drawn for HIV and AIDS intervention and prevention efforts. First, HIV intervention should focus on the entire spectrum of sexual behavior and drug-use risks among IDUs. The authors also recommend that HIV and AIDS education be tailored to individual users through a personalized risk assessment, risk profile, and other methods. This strategy has proven to increase users' perception of AIDS risk. Personalized risk assessment may have more impact on clients when delivered by peer educators, especially those who have HIV or AIDS. Also, HIV and AIDS educators and outreach workers must understand the risk of HIV and AIDS within the context of the many risks (e.g., arrest, victimization, and withdrawal) which IDUs must manage in their daily lives. Thus, achieving changes in HIV-related risk behavior is asking IDUs to reassess and reprioritize their risks. The sample consisted of 958 arrestees drawn from the Drug Use Forecasting program (60 percent male and 40 percent female). Multiple logistic regression was used to assess the relationship between perceived risk and a variety of demographic, behavioral, and psychosocial variables. 3 tables and 105 references