Purpose: There is growing interest in network-based interventions to reduce HIV sexual risk behavior among both homeless youth and men who have sex with men. The goal of this study was to better understand the social network and individual correlates of sexual risk behavior among homeless young men who have sex with men (YMSM) to inform these HIV prevention efforts.
Methods: A multistage sampling design was used to recruit a probability sample of 121 homeless YMSM (ages: 16–24 years) from shelters, drop-in centers, and street venues in Los Angeles County. Face-to-face interviews were conducted. Because of the different distributions of the three outcome variables, three distinct regression models were needed: ordinal logistic regression for unprotected sex, zero-truncated Poisson regression for number of sex partners, and logistic regression for any sex trade.
Results: Homeless YMSM were less likely to engage in unprotected sex and had fewer sex partners if their networks included platonic ties to peers who regularly attended school, and had fewer sex partners if most of their network members were not heavy drinkers. Most other aspects of network composition were unrelated to sexual risk behavior. Individual predictors of sexual risk behavior included older age, Hispanic ethnicity, lower education, depressive symptoms, less positive condom attitudes, and sleeping outdoors because of nowhere else to stay.
Conclusions: HIV prevention programs for homeless YMSM may warrant a multipronged approach that helps these youth strengthen their ties to prosocial peers, develop more positive condom attitudes, and access needed mental health and housing services.