The goal of the proposed research is to reduce women's HIV infection by delineating the mechanisms through which alcohol affects sex risk reduction behavioral skills. Rates of sexual risk taking behavior remain high among women who have sex with men. Survey research suggests that young women are not skilled at HIV risk appraisal and behaviors that reduce sex risk, and alcohol consumption may further impair these skills. Although previous studies have contributed valuable information about alcohol's relationship to sexual risk taking, there is a paucity of experimental research involving actual behavioral responses during social interactions. The proposed research utilizes innovative experimental methods in order to investigate alcohol's effects on women's HIV risk appraisal and behavioral skills at negotiating condom use during live social interactions. The theoretical underpinnings of the proposed research are the Cognitive Mediation Model of Sexual Decision Making (Norris, Masters, &Zawacki, 2004), Alcohol Myopia Theory (Taylor &Leonard, 1983), and Alcohol Expectancy Theory (MacAndrew &Edgerton, 1969). Intoxication of participants and characteristics social interactions are manipulated in a series of 3 proposed laboratory experiments. Manipulated characteristics of the social interactions reflect aspects of sexual decision making relevant to women. Each laboratory session will be videotaped and coded in order to assess participants'behavior during the social interactions. Self-report dependent measures will assess constructs of a recently developed Cognitive Mediation Model so that its utility in explaining alcohol-involved sexual risk taking can be tested. Prior to the experimental protocol, participants'relationship motivation and alcohol expectancies will be assessed as a potential moderator of alcohol's effects on participants'risk appraisal, negotiation behavior, and cognitive model variables. The study paradigms were designed to simulate real situations in which HIV risk appraisal and safer-sex negotiations commonly occur. The results can be used to develop prevention programs that reduce women's sexual risk taking when drinking. These results will be most informative for prevention programs targeting young women who have sex with men, who are a group at significant risk for negative outcomes of sexual risk taking such as HIV transmission.
Transmission of HIV and other STIs poses an increasingly serious health threat to women, and alcohol consumption may increase women's risky sexual decisions and behavior. The proposed project will examine this major public health concern by studying the influence of alcohol on women's sexual risk reduction behavioral skills.