Isolating the Nexus of Substance Use, Violence and Sexual Risk for HIV Infection Among Young Adults in the United States

Published in: AIDS and Behavior, v. 9, no. 1, Mar. 2005, p. 73-87

by Rebecca L. Collins, Phyllis L. Ellickson, Maria Orlando Edelen, David J. Klein

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Adults aged 18 to 29 are at significant sexual risk for HIV infection. Substance use and violence are known to be associated with sexual risk in certain groups, but few studies have examined these relationships in the general population of young adults. No studies have tested whether the contributions of substance use and violence to sexual risk are independent, and few have looked at whether drug use associations with risk are specific to certain substances. Using structural modeling techniques, the authors examined data for 3,437 adults aged 23-24, testing for associations between three measures of sexual risk for HIV, various forms of substance use, victimization and partner violence. Alcohol use and victimization predicted high risk sex in independent samples of single and married/cohabiting adults. Marijuana use, problem drug use, and partner violence were inconsistently related to sexual risk across measures and subsamples. HIV-prevention interventions designed for young adults in the general population should target individuals who use alcohol frequently and who are victims of violence, and should address both factors, in addition to sexual risk behavior.

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