While men who have sex with men is the group with the highest rates of HIV infection, African Americans also account for a high percentage of those with the virus. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated one of every 32 African American women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with HIV within their lifetime.
A new study published in the journal Health Education and Behavior explored young African American women's motivation behind having sexual encounters and their expectations on condom use. Researchers used a combination of interviews and focus groups to conduct the study. Participants were young, low-income African American women who had had an average of 1.2 sexual partners in the past month.
In total, the study revealed condom use expectations were less than 50 percent for all types of sexual encounters, including the riskiest types of sex-related activities. Additionally, researchers found that love, feelings and fun were the main motivations behind the interviewed women having sex. However, participants revealed their expectations for condom use were the lowest when they were pressured to engage in sexual behavior. This includes scenarios in which the females were inexperienced or controlled by their partners.
"Findings highlight the need for tailored interventions to increase condom use in casual relationships, where perceived risk is already high, and in primary relationships, where motivations for condom use may be low," the authors wrote. "Interventions that address mediators of sexual risk, including self-esteem and coping, may be more effective than those focusing solely on risk perceptions."
Health officials stress "consistent and correct" use of condoms to reduce the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease, such as HIV, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, chlamydia and herpes. According to the CDC, this means using a new condom for every sexual encounter from start to finish.