Objective: Rural women, particularly those in the criminal justice system, are at risk for HIV related to the increasing prevalence of injection drug use as well as limited services. Research on HIV risk correlates, including drug use and mental health, has primarily focused on urban women incarcerated in prisons. The purpose of this exploratory study is to examine dual HIV risk by 3 different mental health problems (depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder [PTSD]) among drug-using women in rural jails. Method: This study involved random selection, screening, and face-to-face interviews with 136 women in 1 Appalachian state. Analyses focused on the relationship between mental health and HIV risk. Results: Nearly 80% of women self-reported symptoms of depression, and more than 60% endorsed symptoms consistent with anxiety and PTSD symptoms. Mental health significantly correlated with severity of certain types of drug use, as well as risky sexual activity. In addition, for women experiencing anxiety and PTSD, injection drug use moderated the relationship between mental health and risky sexual activity. Conclusions and Implications for Practice: Based on these rates of drug use, mental health problems, and the emergence of injection drug use in rural Appalachia, the need to explore the relationships between these issues among vulnerable and understudied populations, such as rural women, is critical. Because of service limitations in rural communities, criminal justice venues such as jails provide opportune settings for screening, assessment, and intervention for drug use, mental health, and HIV education and prevention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-54
Number of pages10
JournalPsychiatric Rehabilitation Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 American Psychological Association.


  • HIV risk
  • Mental health
  • drug use
  • jail
  • rural women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Professions (miscellaneous)
  • Rehabilitation
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'An exploratory study of mental health and HIV risk behavior among drug-using rural women in jail'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this