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Study Examines Link Between Behavior and Sexually Transmitted Infection, HIV Prevalence Among Blacks, Whites

December 8, 2006

"Sexual and Drug Behavior Patterns and HIV/STD Racial Disparities: The Need for New Directions," American Journal of Public Health: Denise Hallfors of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation and colleagues examined data from 8,706 black and white participants in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health ages 18 to 26 to determine whether an individuals' sexual and illicit drug use behavior patterns were associated with racial disparities in sexually transmitted infections and HIV prevalence. The researchers analyzed 16 unique behavior patterns -- including sex, condom use and alcohol and drug use -- and compared STI and HIV prevalence for each pattern by race (PIRE release, 11/30). The study found that white participants living in the U.S. had a higher risk of acquiring an STI, including HIV, when they engaged in high-risk behavior as opposed to when they did not. However, the black participants were at high risk for STIs, including HIV, regardless of their behavior (Hallfors et al., AJPH, 11/30). The reason for the racial disparity is not clear, but it likely is related to the fact that sexual practices are segregated by race, Hallfors said, adding that the low ratio of black men to black women might be creating a "perfect storm" effect that causes more crossing of low-risk and high-risk partners (PIRE release, 11/30).

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