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Oregon State
study focuses on risky behavior by at-risk minority groups

Oregon State
study focuses on risky behavior by at-risk minority groups

Study will target causes of risky sex by African-Americans and Latinos.

Factors influencing risky sexual behaviors among young men and women at increased risk for HIV infection are the focus of a five-year, $2 million study headed by an Oregon State University public-health researcher.

"Whereas the incidence of AIDS increased among both men and women until 1994, in that year AIDS incidence among men began to drop but continued to rise among women," said Marie Harvey, professor and chair of the OSU College of Health and Human Sciences' Department of Public Health. "And HIV infection among U.S. women, particularly women of color, has increased dramatically during the past 10 years."

Funded by the National Institutes of Health, Harvey's study will collect data primarily from African-American and Hispanic men and women, focusing on understanding the relationship dynamics that influence high-risk sexual behaviors in these populations. The initial sample will consist of 225 men and 225 women from the Los Angeles area who are at risk of sexually transmitted diseases.

Los Angeles ranks second among U.S. cities in the number of AIDS cases, with about 55,000 AIDS diagnoses through 2003, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Twenty-two percent of the city's AIDS cases occur among African-Americans and 45% among Hispanics. Almost 70% of Los Angeles women diagnosed with AIDS in 2003 were infected by a male partner.

"The need to focus on relationship dynamics when investigating sexual and HIV prevention decision-making and behavior has become increasingly clear," Harvey said. "Much of the sexual behavior that puts individuals at risk for negative health involves at least two people. Condom use is an example of an interdependent behavior because it requires the participation, or at least cooperation, of both people. The better we can understand the association between the characteristics and dynamics of sexual partnerships and risky behavior, the better we will be able to address the multiple barriers to safer-sex behavior that occur within heterosexual relationships." (The Advocate)

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