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Sex Transm Dis. 2012 Jun;39(6):424-30. doi: 10.1097/OLQ.0b013e318254c81a.

Limiting options: sex ratios, incarceration rates, and sexual risk behavior among people on probation and parole.

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Division of General Internal Medicine, Rhode Island Hospital/Brown Medical School, Providence, RI 02903, USA.



To investigate how incarceration may affect risk of acquiring HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, we tested associations of ex-offenders' sexual risk behavior with the male-female sex ratio and the male incarceration rate.


Longitudinal data from 1287 drug-involved persons on probation and parole as part of the Criminal Justice Drug Abuse Treatment Studies were matched by county of residence with population factors, and stratified by race/ethnicity and gender. Generalized estimating equations assessed associations of having unprotected sex with a partner who had HIV risk factors, and having >1 sex partner in the past month.


Among non-Hispanic black men and women, low sex ratios were associated with greater risk of having unprotected sex with a risky partner (adjusted relative risk [ARR] = 1.76, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.29, 2.42; ARR = 2.48, 95% CI = 1.31, 4.73, respectively). Among non-Hispanic black and non-Hispanic white (NHW) women, low sex ratios were associated with having >1 sex partner (ARR = 2.00, 95% CI = 1.02, 3.94; ARR = 1.71, 95% CI = 1.06, 2.75, respectively). High incarceration rates were associated with greater risk of having a risky partner for all men (non-Hispanic black: ARR = 2.14, 95% CI = 1.39, 3.30; NHW: ARR = 1.39, 95% CI: 1.05, 1.85; Hispanic: ARR = 3.99, 95% CI = 1.55, 10.26) and having >1 partner among NHW men (ARR = 1.92, 95% CI = 1.40, 2.64).


Low sex ratios and high incarceration rates may influence the number and risk characteristics of sex partners of ex-offenders. HIV-prevention policies and programs for ex-offenders could be improved by addressing structural barriers to safer sexual behavior.

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