The psychosocial impacts of various types of childhood maltreatment on vulnerable illicit drug-using populations remain unclear. We examined the prevalence and correlates of antecedent emotional, physical and sexual abuse among a community-recruited cohort of adult HIV-seropositive illicit drug users.
We estimated the prevalence of childhood abuse at baseline using data from the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire, a 28-item validated instrument used to retrospectively assess childhood maltreatment. Logistic regression was used to estimate relationships between sub-types of childhood maltreatment with various social-demographic, drug-using and clinical characteristics.
Overall, 233 HIV-positive injection drug users (IDU) were included in the analysis, including 83 (35.6%) women. Of these, moderate or severe emotional childhood abuse was reported by 51.9% of participants, emotional neglect by 36.9%, physical abuse by 51.1%, physical neglect by 46.8% and sexual abuse by 41.6%. In multivariate analyses, emotional, physical and sexual abuses were independently associated with greater odds of recent incarceration. Emotional abuse and neglect were independently associated with a score of =16 on the Centre for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. There was no association between any form of childhood maltreatment and clinical HIV variables, including viral load, CD4+ count and history of antiretroviral therapy use.
These findings underscore the negative impact of childhood maltreatment on social functioning and mental health in later life. Given the substantial prevalence of childhood maltreatment among this population, there is a need for evidence-based resources to address the deleterious effect it has on the health and social functioning of HIV-positive IDU.