Background: African Americans are disproportionately affected by sexually transmitted infections. Many studies explore the role of religion on sexual behaviors of minority adolescents to inform interventions, but few examine its role for adults.
Objectives: Explore the influence of religiosity on the sexual health behaviors of African American adults.
Methods: From May through August 2011, a thirty item questionnaire was posted on the American Social Health Association website. Participants were asked about demographics, religious involvement and sexual behaviors. Data were analyzed using ANOVA, Chi-Square, and regression to assess potential effects of religiosity on sexual behaviors.
Results: Among this convenience sample, having a religious affiliation does not increase condom use for African Americans (n=46) or other racial groups (n=235). People who consider themselves very religious have fewer lifetime sexual partners (F=4.245, p<.001), but there is no difference in sexual partners between racial groups. African Americans are more likely than non-African Americans to use contraceptives (β = .195, p<.001), even when controlling for frequency of attending religious services, which does not influence contraceptive use (β = -.040, p>.05). No racial differences were identified in the proportion having sex before marriage (χ2 = .044, p>.05).
Conclusions: Religiosity may reduce the number of lifetime partners, but has no influence on contraceptive use, regardless of race. Assessing religiosity and sexual behaviors may be feasible in an online format. However, future studies should consider innovative techniques to increase minority participation.
Implications for Programs, Policy, and Research: Programs to reduce sexually transmitted infection disparities are needed, but including religion in such programs should be considered based on data from those for whom the intervention is intended. Although religion has an important influence in the lives of many African-Americans, it may play only a marginal role when it comes to sexual health behaviors.