Online Program

Female primary relationship partners and HIV risk among drug-using wswm of color

Monday, November 4, 2013 : 5:30 p.m. - 5:45 p.m.

Sel J. Hwahng, PhD, Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, Columbia University/Beth Israel Medical Center, New York, NY
Danielle Ompad, PhD, College of Global Public Health, New York University, New York, NY
Background: Low-income heroin-, crack-, and cocaine-using African American and Latina women who have sex with women and men (WSWM) are an under-researched yet high-risk HIV population. HIV seroprevalence among drug-using WSW, including WSWM, ranges from 12.8% to 53% in New York City. Drug-using WSWM comprise a sizable portion of drug-using women of color and have been shown to be at higher HIV risk than drug-using women of color who have sex with men only (WSMO).

Methods: A pilot study of 90-minute in-depth interviews with drug-using WSWM of color (n=10) and participant-observation (N=35) was conducted in New York City in 2011.

Results: All women had experienced lifetime sexual victimization, 9/10 experienced childhood sexual abuse (CSA), with women who were involved in primary relationships with women (WPRW) experiencing the most extreme forms of CSA. Only WPRW engaged in transactional sex with men for drugs and/or money, and some partnered with men as a “security blanket” or “front” in order to pursue relationships with women “on the down low.” WPRW also tended to have sex with multiple male partners, drug-using men, and men who have sex with men and women. WPRW also provided specialized sexual services to men and were considered “virginal” and “unused” because of their “gay” status. IDU was only found among WPRW.

Conclusion: Female primary relationship partners may be indicative of a sexual minority status among WSWM that results in lower socio-economic status and higher HIV risk compared to women with male partners only.

Learning Areas:

Diversity and culture
Other professions or practice related to public health
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Explain why the gender of primary relationship partners may have impacted socio-economic status and how it was relevant to HIV risk. Describe the different types of relationships that drug-using WSWM of color were involved in with women and men. Discuss the eight high HIV risk behaviors that drug-using WSWM of color in primary relationships with women were more likely to engage in.

Keyword(s): Drug Use, Women's Sexuality

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the Principal Investigator and lead analyst of this study.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.