Background: Self-harm in adolescents is of growing concern internationally but limited evidence exists on the prevalence of self-harm in those living with HIV, who may be at higher risk of poor mental health outcomes. Therefore our aim was to determine the prevalence and predictors of self-harm among young people with perinatally-acquired HIV (PHIV) and HIV negative (with sibling or mother living with HIV) young people living in England. Methods: 303 PHIV and 100 HIV negative young people (aged 12-23 years) participating in the Adolescents and Adults Living with Perinatal HIV cohort study completed an anonymous self-harm questionnaire, as well as a number of standardised mental-health assessments. Logistic regression investigated predictors of self-harm. Results: The median age was 16.7 years in both groups, and 40.9% of the PHIV and 31.0% of the HIV negative groups were male. In total 13.9% (56/403) reported having ever self-harmed, with no difference by HIV status (p = 0.089). Multivariable predictors of self-harm were female sex (adjusted odds ratio (AOR) 5.3, (95% confidence interval 1.9, 14.1), p = 0.001), lower self-esteem (AOR 0.9 (0.8, 0.9) per 1 point increase, p < 0.001) and having ever used alcohol (AOR 3.8 (1.8, 7.8), p < 0.001). Self-esteem z-scores for both PHIV and HIV negative participants were 1.9 standard deviations below the mean for population norms. Conclusions: Self-harm is common among PHIV and HIV negative adolescents in England. Reassuringly however, they do not appear to be at an increased risk compared to the general adolescent population (15-19% lifetime prevalence). The low level of self-esteem (compared to available normative data) in both groups is worrying and warrants further attention.
BMC Public Health