Reframing Sexual Health for Black Girls and Women in HIV/STI Prevention Work: Highlighting the Role of Identity and Interpersonal Relationships

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Nov 18;18(22):12088. doi: 10.3390/ijerph182212088.


While Black girls and women are disproportionately impacted by sexual health disparities, there continues to be an overwhelming focus on individual risk behaviors within prevention initiatives, which offers a fragmented narrative of the multidimensional nature of risk and plausibly limits effectiveness of prevention programs and attenuates reductions in disparities. Because sexual health is experienced within an individual's beliefs/values, interpersonal relationships, and behaviors and reflects larger social and cultural systems, it is important to critically examine common theories used to inform HIV/STI prevention interventions for Black women and girls. To fill this gap in the literature, we critique two commonly used theories in HIV/STI prevention interventions, namely the social cognitive theory and the theory of gender and power, by highlighting theoretical and practical strengths and weaknesses. We propose research implications that incorporate key strengths of the two theories while adding new concepts grounded in the intersectionality theory. The overall goal is to introduce a more comprehensive conceptual model that is reflective of and applicable to the multidimensional sexual experiences of Black girls and women within the evolving definition of sexual health and behavior.

Keywords: Black girls; Black women; sexual behavior; sexual health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • African Americans
  • Female
  • HIV Infections* / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Intersectional Framework
  • Sexual Health*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases* / prevention & control