HIV; Incarceration; Parole; Couples; Dyadic Analysis


Public Health


Background: The massively disproportionate impact of America’s prison boom on communities of color has raised questions about how incarceration may affect health disparities, including disparities in HIV. Primary partners are an important source of influence on sexual health. In this paper, we investigate sexual HIV risk among male-female couples following a man’s release from prison.

Methods: We draw upon data from the Relate Project, a novel cross-sectional survey of recently released men and their female partners in Oakland and San Francisco, California (N=344). Inferential analyses use the actor-partner model to explore actor and partner effects on sexual HIV risk outcomes.

Results: Dyadic analyses of sexual HIV risk among male parolees and their female partners paint a complex portrait of couples affected by incarceration and of partners’ influences on each other. Findings indicate that demographic factors such as education level and employment status, individual psycho-social factors such as perception of risk, and relationship factors such as commitment and power affect sexual HIV risk outcomes.

Conclusion: The Relate Project provides a novel dataset for the dyadic analysis of sexual risk among male parolees and their female partners, and results highlight the importance of focusing on the couple as a unit when assessing HIV risk and protective behaviors. Results also indicate potentially fruitful avenues for population-specific interventions that may help to reduce sexual health disparities among couples affected by incarceration.

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