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Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Risk Factors for HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C Among People with Severe Mental Illness
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OBJECTIVE: Previous reports have indicated that persons with severe mental illness have an elevated risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C compared with the general population. This study extends earlier findings by examining the factors that are most predictive of serologic status among persons with severe mental illness.

METHODS: A total of 969 persons with severe mental illness from five sites in four states were approached to take part in an assessment involving testing for blood-borne infections and a one-time standardized interview containing questions about sociodemographic characteristics, substance use, risk behaviors for sexually transmitted diseases, history of sexually transmitted diseases, and health care.

RESULTS: The greater the number of risk behaviors, the greater was the likelihood of infection, both for persons in more rural locations (New Hampshire and North Carolina), where the prevalence of infection was lower, and those in urban locations (Hartford, Connecticut; Bridgeport, Connecticut; and Baltimore, Maryland), where the prevalence was higher. Although no evidence was found that certain behaviors increase a person's risk of one blood-borne infection while other behaviors increase the risk of a different infection, it is conceivable that more powerful research designs would reveal some significant differences among the risks.

CONCLUSIONS: Clinicians should be attentive to these risk factors so as to encourage appropriate testing, counseling, and treatment. (Authors)
Psychiatric Services