Background: Studies have consistently suggested that the disproportionately higher rates of STDs among African Americans are due to their higher levels of risks behaviors in comparison to those of Whites. More recent studies, however, have suggested that this may not be accurate. The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that major factors influencing STD risks were more related to socio-economic status (SES) such as income levels, housing stability, educational attainment, and incarceration rates rather than race.
Methods: This study investigated the risks for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among a sample of 100 African American and White self-identified heterosexuals equally stratified by race and gender living in a racially diverse section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Results: Study results supported the hypothesis that lower SES was statistically significant to higher levels of risks based on the participants’ individual display of dissortative partner selection patterns in relationship to their self-reported STD risks (r = -.25, p<.05). Findings more clearly illustrate this phenomenon by study data that show that the self-report of higher risk scores by Whites (M=6.50) compared to those of African American (M=4.96) was statistically significant, t(98)=-2.80, p<.01.
Conclusions: Findings support the association that individuals with lower levels of SES, regardless of race, demonstrated a distinctive sexual partner selection pattern of behaviors that increased their risks for STDs; dissortative versus assortativesexual partner selection pattern was more indicative of STD risks. Furthermore, participants with lower SES demonstrated a dissortative pattern compared to those with moderate or higher SES levels who demonstrated an assortative partner selection pattern. STD interventions, treatment strategies, and related services must focus more on addressing the socio-economic inequities that tend to put more African Americans and other minorities at higher risks for STDs than White Americans.