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Womens Health Issues. 2012 May-Jun;22(3):e303-10. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2012.03.001.

College graduation reduces vulnerability to STIs/HIV among African-American young adult women.

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  • 1Vaccinology Training Program, Emory University School of Medicine, Rollins School of Public Health, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.


African-American women are disproportionately affected by sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. The Theory of Gender and Power (TGP) posits that socioeconomic exposures, including educational attainment, place women at increased risk for STIs/HIV. This study examined the association between educational attainment and vulnerability to STIs/HIV, as well as potential TGP-driven mediators of this association, among African-American women. Baseline data were assessed from an STI/HIV prevention intervention for African-American women (n = 848) aged 18 to 29 recruited from three Kaiser Permanente Centers in Atlanta, Georgia. Data collection included a survey of demographic, psychosocial, and behavioral measures and self-collected, laboratory-confirmed vaginal swabs for STIs (trichomoniasis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and human papillomavirus). Multiple regression analyses and multivariate mediation analyses were used to examine the association between educational attainment with a laboratory-confirmed STI and potential TGP mediators. Controlling for age and receipt of public assistance, the odds of an STI diagnosis were 73% lower among participants with a college degree or greater compared with participants who had not completed high school. There were also significant associations between educational attainment and multiple TGP mediators from the sexual division of power and the structure of cathexis. TGP constructs did not mediate the association between educational attainment and laboratory-confirmed STI. The current study suggests that graduating from college may lead to a beneficial reduction in vulnerability to STIs/HIV among African-American women. Findings from this study support expanding structural-level interventions, emphasizing both high school and college graduation, as a means of reducing vulnerability to STIs/HIV among African-American women.

Copyright © 2012 Jacobs Institute of Women's Health. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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