Dissolution of Primary Intimate Relationships During Incarceration and Associations With Post-Release STI/HIV Risk Behavior in a Southeastern City

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Background:Incarceration is associated with sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It may contribute to STI/HIV by disrupting primary intimate relationships that protect against high-risk partnerships.Methods:In an urban sample of men (N = 229) and women (N = 144) in North Carolina, we assessed how often respondents experienced the dissolution of a primary intimate relationship at the time of their own (among men) or their partner's (among women) incarceration. We then measured the association between dissolution of relationships during incarceration and STI/HIV-related risk behaviors.Results:Among men who had ever been incarcerated for 1 month or longer (N = 72), 43% (N = 31) had a marital or nonmarital primary partner at the time of the longest prior sentence. Among women, 22% (N = 31) had ever had a primary partner who had been incarcerated for 1 month or longer. Of men and women who were in a relationship at the time of a prior incarceration of 1 month or longer (N = 62), more than 40% of men and 30% of women reported that the relationship ended during the incarceration. In analyses adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics and crack/cocaine use, loss of a partner during incarceration was associated with nearly 3 times the prevalence of having 2 or more new partners in the 4 weeks before the survey (prevalence ratio: 2.80, 95% confidence interval: 1.13–6.96).Conclusions:In this sample, incarceration disrupted substantial proportions of primary relationships and dissolution of those relationships was associated with subsequent STI/HIV risk. The results highlight the need for further research to investigate the effects of incarceration on relationships and health.

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