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By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 15 March 2006

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

Although AIDS cases increased among both men and women through 1993, in 1994, AIDS among men began to drop but continued to rise among women, said Marie Harvey, professor and chair of the OSU College of Health and HumanSciences' DepartmentofPublic Health.

HIV infection among the nation's women, particularly women of color, has increased dramatically during the past 10 years, Harvey added.

Funded by the National InstitutesofHealth, Harvey's study will collect data primarily from African American and Hispanic men and women, focusing on understanding what influences 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 is the second-largest city in the United States with more than 3.8 million people. According to the 2000 census, people of Hispanic origin comprise 47 percent of Los Angeles' population and African Americans, 11 percent. Of the total population, 20 percent of Los Angeles residents are men and women ages 18 to 30.

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 U.S. Centers for DiseaseControland Prevention.Twenty-two percent of the city's AIDS cases occur among African Americans and 45 percent among Hispanics.

Almost 70 percent of 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."

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