HIV and African Americans in the Southern United States: Sexual Networks and Social Context

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Background:Heterosexual HIV transmission among African Americans in the rural southern United States has climbed in recent years. Concurrent partnerships and bridge populations have emerged as key elements in the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).Goal:The goal of this study was to examine published empiric data and other literature concerning the extent of these network patterns and their relationship to the socioeconomic context among African Americans in the rural South.Study Design:The authors conducted a review of public health, medical, and social sciences literature.Results:In areas of the rural South with high STI rates, there is extensive concurrency with evidence of dense sexual networks and bridging among the general population, core group members, and other high-risk subpopulations. Qualitative research reveals socioeconomic factors that support these network patterns: low ratio of men to women, economic oppression, racial discrimination, and high incarceration rates of black men.Conclusion:Concurrency and bridging likely contribute to increased heterosexual HIV transmission among blacks in the South; contextual factors promote these network patterns in this population.

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