Campus News Science & Technology

$2.1 million grant will focus research on rural African-American men and HIV

Athens, Ga. – A new $2.1 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse will allow University of Georgia researchers to learn about the lives of young African-American men who live in rural areas. The goal, according to the principal investigator, is to develop educational programs that will ultimately decrease the rates of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases found among this population.
“In a 2006 epidemiological study, Georgia had 20 of the top 100 counties in the nation in rates of HIV infections,” according to Steve Kogan, assistant professor of child and family development in the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences and the principal investigator for the study. “While some of those counties are in the metropolitan Atlanta area, a number of them were rural counties in central and southern areas of Georgia.”

Kogan and his colleagues plan to follow 500 young, African-American men living in rural parts of Georgia over the course of three-to-five years and learn as much as possible about the factors that affect their decisions regarding sex and romantic relationships.

“There are a lot of stressors for young African-American men in rural counties,” Kogan said. “There are fewer opportunities for advanced education or training and finding jobs can be difficult. We want to look at how living in a difficult environment affects how men feel about themselves and how it influences their behaviors. In particular, we want to find the elements that influence resilience and strengths. For example, what are the processes in men’s lives that facilitate responsible behavior? Our approach to prevention is based on understanding these kinds of protectiveprocesses in the African-American community.”

Research has shown that rates of sexually transmitted disease are much higher in the years following high school. Likewise, there is research showing that people who develop long-time monogamous relationships have better health outcomes on multiple levels. However, there isn’t research showing why some people tend to develop monogamous relationships while others don’t.

“Really understanding sexual behavior requires understanding a person’s life in total. Sexual behavior is a part of how a person thinks about relationships with partners and how these relationships fit into their hopes for their lives,” said Kogan.

Kogan plans to use a process called respondent driven sampling to recruit participants in the study. This process requires working with community liaisons to identify a few participants who then agree to recruit other friends and family members into the study. Participants will complete a 90-minute survey that includes a broad range of questions. Afterward, participants will be contacted at regular intervals for follow-up interviews.

After gathering and analyzing the data, Kogan plans to use the findings to develop education and prevention plans to reduce the incidence of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases in rural African-American communities.

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