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Qual Health Res. 2012 Jan;22(1):89-102. doi: 10.1177/1049732311419865. Epub 2011 Aug 22.

A syndemic analysis of alcohol use and sexual risk behavior among tourism employees in Sosúa, Dominican Republic.

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  • 1Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA.


The Dominican Republic has high rates of HIV infection and alcohol consumption. Unfortunately, little research has been focused on the broader sources of the synergy between these two health outcomes. We draw on syndemic theory to argue that alcohol consumption and sexual risk behavior are best analyzed within the context of culture and economy in Caribbean tourism spaces, which produce a synergy between apparently independent outcomes. We sampled 32 men and women working in the tourism industry at alcohol-serving establishments in Sosúa, Dominican Republic. Interviewees described alcohol consumption as an implicit requirement of tourism work, tourism industry business practices that foster alcohol consumption, and an intertwining relationship between alcohol and sexual commerce. The need to establish relationships with tourists, combined with the overconsumption of alcohol, contributed to a perceived loss of sexual control, which participants felt could impede condom use. Interventions should incorporate knowledge of the social context of tourism areas to mitigate the contextual factors that contribute to HIV infection and alcohol consumption among locals.

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