Professors Lisa Dierker and Jennifer Rose, along with Jalen Alexander BA/MA ’14,’15, are the co-authors of an article titled “It Is Complicated: Sexual Partner Characteristic Profiles and Sexually Transmitted Infection Rates within a Predominantly African American Population in Mississippi,” published in the May 2015 issue of Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Vol. 42, No. 5.
Dierker is professor of psychology, director of pilot programs for the Center for Pedagogical Innovation. Rose is professor of the practice and research professor of psychology for the Center for Pedagogical Innovation and director of the Institutional Review Board for Academic Affairs. Alexander is co-chair of the Center for African American Studies Advisory Board.
Mississippi has among the highest prevalence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the United States. Understanding sexual networks can provide insight into risk factors for transmission and guide prevention interventions.
In this study, the co-authors obtained information from 1,437 participants, primarily African American (95 percent) adults presenting for care at an STI clinic in Jackson, Mississippi. Latent class analysis identified underlying population subgroups with unique patterns of response on a comprehensive set of 14 sexual partner variables, such as living with or having a child with a partner, partner dependence and trust, 1-time sexual encounters, multiple main partners, substance use, sexual concurrency, and incarceration.
Classes were compared on participant age, sex, sexual orientation, public assistance, lifetime partners, relationship status, and self-reported past-year STI.
The co-authors discovered that three classes emerged. Class 1 (n = 746) participants were less dependent on partners and less likely to live with or have a child with a partner; Class 2 participants (n = 427) endorsed multiple STI risk factors, including partner incarceration, 6 or more lifetime partners, sexual concurrency, one-time sexual encounters, and substance use at last sex; and Class 3 participants (n = 226) were more likely to be in dependent, committed relationships with children. Class 2 had a higher proportion of self-report past-year STIs (36.7 percent) compared with Classes 1 (26.6 percent) and 3 (26.1 percent). The researchers concluded that certain partner factors such as incarceration, substance use and concurrency may contribute to increased STI risk.