This application extends and builds upon findings emerging from the parent project entitled "Multiple Sexual Partnering &HIV Risks among Low Income Heterosexual Black Men" (R01 HD059706). That research with low-income black men reveals that many low-income black females also have multiple partners and suggests that male and female scripts may interact in important ways to increase or reduce the risk of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections. This project seeks to understand the underlying dynamics and context of understudied and consequently frequently misunderstood social and cultural determinants of sexual behavior which commonly occurs among poor, inner-city, black heterosexual females who use drugs. Extensive evidence documents that along with drug use and/or sales, having multiple sexual partners is an important risk factor for HIV/AIDS and STI infection for black males and black females. Other studies corroborate findings from the parent study that low-income African American females also tend to have multiple partners, but few studies focus on these women exclusively. Understanding the scripts women use to negotiate sex with multiple male partners - and the ways in which men and women perceive each other's scripts - holds potential for informing highly targeted, effective prevention messages and interventions. The project will employ sexual scripts theory to develop a better scientific understanding of the subculture patterns which promote multiple sexual partners.
The aims of this project will remain the same as those of the parent study: A (Sexual Socialization): To analyze the sexual norms and scripts observed and learned in the family of orientation and from peers that may result in multiple sexual partners in adulthood among marginalized heterosexual black females. B (Sexual Scripts): To document the role of drug use and various sexual scripts associated with multiple sexual partnering among black heterosexual females that contribute to HIV/AIDS risk. C (Practices for Safer Sex): To examine how and if marginalized heterosexual black females understand and selectively choose sex partners and practice safer sex with multiple sexual partners. This project will follow the same methodological process of investigation as that of the parent grant. We will conduct 15 focus groups involving 120 participants. We will recruit 150 focal subjects who will report different patterns of multiple sexual partnerships (overlapping and/or sequential) and will participate in three years of research. Internal comparison groups will include currently monogamous and sexually inactive women with histories of multiple partners. The omnibus longitudinal ethnographic approach will involve in-depth qualitative interviews about these women's sexual partners and practices and their preferred scripts for justifying multiple partners, along with direct observations of the focl subjects in their households and communities.
African American females remain disproportionately vulnerable to infection with HIV, primarily transmitted through sex with an infected male. Using script theory, this project will greatly advance scientific understanding of why and how marginalized heterosexual black women engage in various forms of sexual behavior with multiple partners, and whether and how condoms are used and safer sex messages are interpreted. These findings will build on the investigators'previous research on male scripts, leading to improvements in developing culturally sensitive messages for safer sex practices and reducing multiple partnering practices and HIV/STI infections among this high-risk population.