Prevalence, Type, and Correlates of Trauma Exposure Among Adolescent Men and Women in Soweto, South Africa: Implications for HIV Prevention

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Closson K, Dietrich JJ, Nkala B, Musuku A, Cui Z, Chia J, Gray G,Lachowsky NJ, Hogg RS, Miller CL, Kaida A. Prevalence, type, and correlatesof trauma exposure among adolescent men and women in Soweto, South Africa:implications for HIV prevention. BMC public health. 2016 Nov 25;16(1):1191. 

Date created: 
Potentially traumatic events
Sexual and reproductive health
South Africa
Young adult

BACKGROUND: Youth trauma exposure is associated with syndemic HIV risk. We measured lifetime prevalence, type, and correlates of trauma experience by gender among adolescents living in the HIV hyper-endemic setting of Soweto, South Africa. METHODS: Using data from the Botsha Bophelo Adolescent Health Survey (BBAHS), prevalence of "ever" experiencing a traumatic event among adolescents (aged 14-19) was assessed using a modified Traumatic Event Screening Inventory-Child (TESI-C) scale (19 items, study alpha = 0.63). We assessed self-reported number of potentially traumatic events (PTEs) experienced overall and by gender. Gender-stratified multivariable logistic regression models assessed independent correlates of 'high PTE score' (≥7 PTEs). RESULTS: Overall, 767/830 (92%) participants were included (58% adolescent women). Nearly all (99.7%) reported experiencing at least one PTE. Median PTE was 7 [Q1,Q3: 5-9], with no gender differences (p = 0.19). Adolescent men reported more violent PTEs (e.g., "seen an act of violence in the community") whereas women reported more non-violent HIV/AIDS-related PTEs (e.g., "family member or someone close died of HIV/AIDS"). High PTE score was independently associated with high food insecurity among adolescent men and women (aOR = 2.63, 95%CI = 1.36-5.09; aOR = 2.57, 95%CI = 1.55-4.26, respectively). For men, high PTE score was also associated with older age (aOR = 1.40/year, 95%CI = 1.21-1.63); and recently moving to Soweto (aOR = 2.78, 95%CI = 1.14-6.76). Among women, high PTE score was associated with depression using the CES-D scale (aOR = 2.00, 95%CI = 1.31-3.03,) and inconsistent condom use vs. no sexual experience (aOR = 2.69, 95%CI = 1.66-4.37). CONCLUSION: Nearly all adolescents in this study experienced trauma, with gendered differences in PTE types and correlates, but not prevalence. Exposure to PTEs were distributed along social and gendered axes. Among adolescent women, associations with depression and inconsistent condom use suggest pathways for HIV risk. HIV prevention interventions targeting adolescents must address the syndemics of trauma and HIV through the scale-up of gender-transformative, youth-centred, trauma-informed integrated HIV and mental health services.

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Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)