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Subst Use Misuse. 1996 Feb;31(3):375-407.

Sex, drugs, intervention, and research: from the individual to the social.

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Centre for Research on Drugs and Health Behaviour, University of London, England.


Epidemiological estimates of the sexual risk behavior of drug users have provided essential indicators to the current and future prevalence of HIV transmission. An overview of recent research shows the majority of drug injectors to be sexually active, low levels of reported condom use, a significant minority of female injectors to be involved in prostitution, relatively high levels of sexual mixing between drug injectors and noninjectors, and only scant indications of sexual behavior change. Epidemiological studies of risk, however, are unable to yield the data required to understand the interaction between individual risk behavior and social relationships. This is required if obstacles to safer sex compliance and sexual behavior change are to be overcome, and demands recognition of the influence and importance of social context on the production of sexual risk behavior in future research and intervention designs. In response, the paper explores the future role of qualitative research in understanding the social relations of "risk" and in contributing toward theoretical advancements in explanations of risk perception and risk behavior. The paper concludes by discussing the implications of this analysis for developing interventions which aim to target social relationships as agents of social network and community change.

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