Violence, abuse, alcohol and drug use, and sexual behaviors in street children of Greater Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt

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Abstract

Objectives:

To measure the prevalence of HIV/AIDS risk behaviors and related factors in a large, probability-based sample of boys and girls aged 12–17 years living on the streets of Egypt's largest urban centers of Greater Cairo and Alexandria.

Methods:

Time-location sampling (TLS) was used to recruit a cross-sectional sample of street children. Procedures entailed using key informants and field observation to create a sampling frame of locations at predetermined time intervals of the day, where street children congregate in the two cities, selecting a random sample of time–locations from the complete list, and intercepting children in the selected time-locations to assess eligibility and conduct interviews. Interviews gathered basic demographic information, life events on the street (including violence, abuse, forced sex), sexual and drug use behaviors, and HIV/AIDS knowledge.

Results:

A total of 857 street children were enrolled in the two cities, with an age, sex, and time-location composition matching the sampling frame. The majority of these children had faced harassment or abuse (93%) typically by police and other street children, had used drugs (62%), and, among the older adolescents, were sexually active (67%). Among the sexually active 15–17-year-olds, most reported multiple partners (54%) and never using condoms (52%). Most girls (53% in Greater Cairo and 90% in Alexandria) had experienced sexual abuse. The majority of street children experienced more than one of these risks. Overlaps with populations at highest risk for HIV were substantial, namely men who have sex with men, commercial sex workers, and injection drug users.

Conclusion:

Our study using a randomized TLS approach produced a rigorous, diverse, probability-based sample of street children and documented very high levels of multiple concurrent risks. Our findings strongly advocate for multiple services including those addressing HIV and STI prevention and care, substance use, shelters, and sensitization of authorities to the plight of street children in Egypt.

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