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"When you get old like this … you don't run those risks anymore": influence of age on sexual risk behaviors and condom use attitudes among methamphetamine-using heterosexual women with a history of partner violence.

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Drug use and partner violence affect older women, yet few studies highlight age-specific HIV risks and prevention strategies. This study compares sexual risk behaviors, condom use attitudes, and HIV knowledge between midlife/older women (ages 45+) and younger women (ages 18-44) reporting methamphetamine use and partner violence in San Diego, California.


Our mixed methods study used themes from a qualitative substudy (n = 18) to inform logistic regression analysis of baseline data from an HIV behavioral intervention trial (n = 154).


Age-related qualitative themes included physiologic determinants, HIV knowledge, and "dodging the bullet," referring to a lifetime of uncertainty surrounding HIV serostatus after engaging in unsafe drug and sex practices. Midlife/older age was associated with never being married (24.2% vs. 51.2; p = .03), having less than a high school education/GED (12.1% vs. 34.7%; p = .04), lower condom use self-efficacy (2.87 vs. 3.19; p = .03), lower positive outcome expectancies (1.9 vs. 2.1; p = .04), and lower HIV knowledge (85.3% vs. 89.7%; p = .04); however, sexual risk behaviors were not associated with age group. In the multivariate analysis, midlife/older age remained independently associated with lower condom use self-efficacy (adjusted odds ratio, 0.49; 95% CI, 0.27-0.87) and lower HIV knowledge (adjusted odds ratio, 0.96; 95% CI, 0.93-0.99).


Midlife/older methamphetamine-using women with experiences of partner violence present similar sexual risk profiles, but possess different HIV-related knowledge and attitudes toward prevention methods compared with their younger counterparts. Clinicians and public health practitioners can have a positive impact on this overlooked population by assessing HIV risks during routine screenings, encouraging HIV testing, and providing age-appropriate HIV prevention education.

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