-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, Aug. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Having friends is healthy for
anyone, and young homeless people are no exception.
A new study finds that homeless youths who have same-sex friends
and acquaintances with stable housing are less likely to engage in
risky sexual activity and are at lower risk for sexually
transmitted diseases (STDs).
Researchers looked at the association between STD rates and the
characteristics of the social networks of 258 homeless people, aged
15 to 24, in San Francisco. Compared to males, females were less
likely to have sex using condoms and more likely to have sex with
intravenous drug users.
The study also found that males were more likely than females to
have same-sex friends and to know people with stable housing. When
males had people with stable housing in their social network, they
were more likely to use condoms. Females were more likely to use
condoms when they could name a same-sex friend, according to the
study, recently published online in the
Journal of Adolescent Health.
"The presence of same-sex friendships and contacts living in stable homes seems to increase condom use," study senior author Dr. Colette Auerswald, an associate adjunct professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, said in a university news release.
"Young homeless men seem to name these social network contacts more frequently than do young homeless women. It will be important in future investigations to ask why this happens," she added.
Having family members in their social networks also reduced
females' risk of having sex with intravenous drug users. None of
the females who had a family member in their social network had a
sex partner who was an intravenous drug user, compared with about
26 percent of those without such a family member.
This study shows the importance of reconnecting homeless young
men and women to mainstream society, lead author Dr. Annie Valente,
who conducted the research while a medical student at UCSF, said in
the news release. "It also emphasizes how same-gender friendships
and family ties may be effective tools in our efforts to improve
the health of homeless youth," she said.
The National Alliance to End Homelessness has more about
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