Background: Reasons for the strikingly increased rates of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among African Americans in the rural Southeastern United States remain unclear. Investigators have devoted little attention to the potential influence of the social and economic context on sexual behaviors.
Goal: To examine the potential influence of these contextual factors on behaviors that promote the transmission of STIs.
Study Design: Focus group interviews in which African Americans from rural North Carolina discussed life in their communities and contextual factors affecting sexual behavior.
Results: Respondents reported pervasive economic and racial oppression, lack of community recreation, boredom, and resultant substance abuse. Many perceived a shortage of black men because of their higher mortality and incarceration rates compared with whites, and believed this male shortage to be partly responsible for the concurrent sexual partnerships that they perceived as widespread among unmarried persons.
Conclusion: Contextual features including racism, discrimination, limited employment opportunity, and resultant economic and social inequity may promote sexual patterns that transmit STIs.