Early Life Circumstances as Contributors to HIV Infection

Karolynn Siegel, Helen Maria Lekas, Destiny Ramjohn, Eric Schrimshaw, Nancy VanDevanter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Adolescents may come from family settings that heighten their vulnerability to early sexual initiation, promiscuity and sexual exploitation. Using qualitative data, we illustrated how early life and family circumstances including neglectful or dysfunctional parenting, sexual abuse, and unstable housing placed young women on a risk trajectory for HIV infection. Five representative cases from a sample of 26 adolescent and young adult HIV-infected females (ages 16-24) who participated in a study about the disease-related adaptive challenges they faced are discussed. Study participants were recruited from five New York City adolescent HIV clinics that provided comprehensive specialty medical and ancillary social services to adolescents and young adults with the disease. The findings revealed that these young women’s unmet need for love, protection, and feeling valued left them vulnerable to exploitive relationships with men who were often significantly older and resulted in their HIV infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)969-993
Number of pages25
JournalSocial Work in Health Care
Issue number10
StatePublished - Nov 26 2014


  • HIV
  • adolescents
  • dysfunctional parenting
  • early life circumstances
  • early sexual initiation
  • risk behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Community and Home Care
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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