HIV-Positive Black Women with Histories of Childhood Sexual Abuse: Patterns of Substance Use and Barriers to Health Care

A constellation of factors contributes to Black women's health including stressors and traumatic experiences. Their psychological adjustment and substance use can further affect their health status. The purpose of this study was to examine patterns of substance abuse and barriers to health care among HIV-positive Black women with histories of childhood sexual abuse (CSA). Baseline data on a community sample of 75 Black HIV-positive women were analyzed to assess and identify drug use, alcohol use, participation in an alcohol or drug treatment program, and communication skills with providers, all of which may act as barriers to health care. Findings indicate that substance use is a significant health problem, with 83% of the participants having used at least one substance regularly and 28% having engaged in regular injection drug use. Barriers to health care included confidentiality issues, poor financial resources, difficulty getting an appointment, excessive waiting to see a health care provider and obligation to care for others. Contrary to past research, poor communication between the participants and the providers did not seem to be a barrier to health care utilization for these women. Early traumatic experiences, including CSA, regardless of whether incidents involved penetration, may exacerbate the problems faced by HIV-positive Black women. Implications for future research and culturally relevant prevention and intervention programs are discussed.