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Study offers new perspective on the link between educational attainment and sexual risk-taking

A new study from researchers in the College of Public Health offers a new look at familiar territory for HIV researchers.

Associate Professor Scott Rutledge and Professor Larry Icard, both in the School of Social Work at the college, examined African-American men in low-income neighborhoods who exchange sex with other men for drugs as well as money. The paper, just published in the Journal of Urban Health, is the latest in a decade’s worth of collaborations with researchers at the University of Pennsylvania.

“It’s not exactly a new angle in the history of HIV. We know that people who buy or sell sex are more likely to contract HIV,” said Rutledge, who is also the associate dean for faculty affairs at the college. With this study, however, “We were curious if there were differences by neighborhood for men living in poverty, and how factors like income, drug use and education fit in.”

The results support the theory that educational attainment has a direct effect on becoming HIV positive. Specifically, the research shows that the men in this study were more likely to engage in transactional sex if they did not complete high school. It also observed that the men in the study who live in neighborhoods with a high number of people who didn’t graduate high school are more seven times more likely to engage in transactional sex.

“The implication is a common one. There are poor, black gay and bisexual men who are triply stigmatized as being poor, sexual minorities and people of color. And, we know people who are more likely to experience prejudice or discrimination are less likely to go far in school,” said Rutledge.

“We need to provide environments in schools that are safe for all kids. Education is one of the most important predictors of well-being and health. It’s incredibly important.”

Learn more about Temple’s School of Social Work here.

Posted:  September 21, 2017