Urban rape survivors: Characteristics and prevalence of human immunodeficiency virus and other sexually transmitted infections

Kathleen L. Irwin, Brian R. Edlin, Leeyang Wong, Sairus Faruque, H. Virginia McCoy, Carl Word, Robert Schilling, Clyde B. McCoy, Patricia E. Evans, Scott D. Holmberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Objective: To determine the prevalence of recent rape, the characteristics or recent rape survivors, and the seroprevalence of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), syphilis, and genital herpes (HSV-2) among recent rape survivors. Methods: We surveyed women 18-29 years old who were recruited from places unassociated with medical or drug treatment or the criminal justice system in three urban communities where illicit drug use is common. We compared characteristics and HIV, syphilis, and HSV-2 seroprevalence of women who reported recent rape with those of women who denied recent rape. Results: One hundred fifty-one of 1104 (13.7%) women reported having been raped in the year before our interview. Rape survivors were more likely than women who denied recent rape to smoke crack cocaine (86.8 versus 56.7%; odds ratio [OR] 5.0, 95% confidence interval [CI] 3.2-7.8), to be homeless (17.2 versus 6.1%; OR 3.2, CI 2.0-5.2), to report a recent sexually transmitted disease (38.7 versus 18.7%; OR 2.7, CI 1.9-3.9), and to be infected with syphilis (42.4 versus 28.4%; OR 1.9, CI 1.3-2.6) and HSV-2 (71.9 versus 57.5%; OR 1.9, CI 1.3-2.8). Survivors were more likely to acknowledge any HIV risk behavior (including sex work) (85.4 versus 49.5%; OR 5.9, CI 3.9-9.0) and to be HIV-infected (23.3 versus 13.4%; OR 1.9, CI 1.3-2.9). Rape was not independently associated with HIV (OR 0.8, 95% CI 0.4-1.3), syphilis (OR 0.9, 95% CI 0.6-1.3), or HSV-2 (OR 1.3, 95% CI 0.9-2.0) infections after adjustment for confounding factors. Conclusion: One in seven women reported being raped recently. Rape was most common among sex workers, crack smokers, and the homeless. Most survivors reported HIV risk behaviors, and many were HIV-infected. Programs to prevent repeated rape, voluntary HIV counseling and testing, and other medical and social services may benefit survivors in these and similar communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)330-336
Number of pages7
JournalObstetrics and gynecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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