L to R: Akm Moniruzzaman, Julian Somers, Milad Parpouchi and Brittany Bingham, members of the Somers Research Group based at SFU Health Sciences

Study finds stable housing doesn’t affect risky sexual behaviour among homeless

September 13, 2016

A study led by SFU health sciences researcher Milad Parpouchi reveals that homeless individuals living with mental illness in Vancouver continue to engage in unprotected sex despite the provision of housing in conjunction with various health and social services—an approach known as Housing First.

Sexual risk behaviours, including unprotected sex, increase the likelihood of sexually transmitted infections, which persist at considerably higher rates among homeless individuals.

“This translates into increased health care costs and higher mortality risks among a marginalized population,” says Parpouchi, a PhD student and Canadian Institutes of Health Research doctoral fellow. He conducted his research under SFU health sciences professor Julian Somers.

The study was published in the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, and is the first study to examine the impact of Housing First on unprotected sex among homeless adults with mental illness.

Despite calls from researchers for stable and supported housing as a potential intervention to reduce sexual risk behaviours, the study found little difference among those who received Housing First and those who received treatment as usual.

In addition, Parpouchi found that the HIV/AIDS prevalence among participants was 45 times higher than the general population in Canada and that amphetamine use, and marriage or cohabitation, increased the odds of unprotected sex among this group.

Parpouchi says that while Housing First provides crucial housing and support services to homeless individuals with mental illness, initiatives targeted towards reducing unprotected sex and the possible spread of infectious diseases are also needed.