A new $2.1 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse will allow UGA researchers to learn about the lives of young African-American men who live in rural areas. The goal is to develop educational programs that will ultimately decrease the rates of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases found among this population, according to Steve Kogan, principal investigator for the study.
“In a 2006 epidemiological study, Georgia had 20 of the top 100 counties in the nation in rates of HIV infections,” said Kogan, an assistant professor of child and family development in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences. “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 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 protective processes 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.
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 range of questions. Afterward, participants will be contacted at regular intervals for follow-up interviews. After 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.