What is the significance of black-white differences in risky sexual behavior?

J Natl Med Assoc. 1994 Oct;86(10):745-59.


A sample of African-American and white young adults were classified as having multiple sex partners or one sexual partner. Subjects with multiple sexual partners were more likely to use drugs and practice risky sexual behaviors such as having anal intercourse, having sexual experiences with a prostitute, and having a history of gonorrhea (P < .001) and genital warts (P < .01). Additional analyses were conducted to determine African-American versus white differences in risky sexual behaviors. Results indicated that whites in the multiple partners and single partner groups were more likely to engage in anal and oral sex, while African Americans were more likely to have sex with prostitutes. Attitudes about the use of condoms differed significantly by multiple partner status (P < .004) and gender (P < .007), but not ethnicity. However, angry reactions about the use of condoms occurred more with African Americans (P < .003) and males (P < .05) than with whites or females. While whites reported a greater use of drugs and a significantly higher level of knowledge about HIV/AIDS, African Americans reported a significantly greater perception of risk for being exposed to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) (P < .01) and significantly more gonorrhea (P < .10), syphilis (P < .05), and HIV/AIDS (P < .05). No whites in our sample were treated for syphilis nor had they tested positive for HIV/AIDS. On the other hand, 4.5% of the total sample of African Americans reported testing positive for HIV/AIDS. Finally, the results from discriminant analysis indicate that a large number of variables significantly discriminate between subjects who engage in risky sexual behaviors and those who do not. Although there is some similarity in the variables for African Americans and whites, there was tremendous variability between the ethnic groups in the factors that predict risky behaviors. These findings are discussed with reference to the need to develop HIV/AIDS prevention programs for African Americans that are based on data derived from African-American populations rather than from black versus white comparison studies.

PIP: The need to design acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) prevention programs specifically tailored to the African-American community was underscored in a study that found substantial variability between Blacks and Whites in high-risk sexual behaviors. Included in the survey were 149 Black males, 155 Black females, 40 White males, and 64 White females attending the same college in the southern US. 71 (47%) Black males, 29 (19%) Black females, 20 (50%) White males, and 24 (38%) White females were currently involved with more than one sexual partner. 4.5% of Black students and no White subjects had tested positive for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Students with multiple sexual partners were significantly more likely than their monogamous counterparts to use illegal drugs, practice anal intercourse, have experience with prostitutes, have a history of gonorrhea and genital warts, and to believe condom use is not necessary if you love your partner. Blacks in the multiple partners subgroup were significantly more likely than their White counterparts to have experience with prostitutes, indicate an intense anger response to condom use, and perceive themselves as at high risk for HIV/AIDS; knowledge of AIDS scores did not differ. White students were significantly more likely than Blacks to engage in anal and oral sex. Discriminant function analyses revealed that having multiple partners was in large part (32%) determined for Whites by consistent condom use and having sex with women, while sex with women, oral sex, history of syphilis, and sex with prostitutes predicted 25% of the variance among Blacks. 41% of anal intercourse variance among Whites was contributed by having multiple sex partners, sex with males, sex with females, and marijuana use; 47% of the variation among Blacks was explained by previous treatment for gonorrhea, genital warts, and herpes; condom acceptance and the perception condoms are inconvenient; sex with males; being male; sex with a prostitute; and oral sex.

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / prevention & control
  • Adult
  • African Americans*
  • Condoms
  • European Continental Ancestry Group*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Risk
  • Sex
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Substance-Related Disorders
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States