Background: Cross-sectional and ecologic studies suggest that place characteristics influence sexual behaviors and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Using data from a predominately substance-misusing cohort of African American adults relocating from US public housing complexes, this multilevel longitudinal study tested the hypothesis that participants who experienced greater postrelocation improvements in neighborhood conditions (i.e., socioeconomic disadvantage, social disorder, STI prevalence, and male/female sex ratios) would have reduced the odds of testing positive for an STI over time.
Methods: Baseline data were collected in 2009 from 172 public housing residents before relocations occurred; 3 waves of postrelocation data were collected every 9 months thereafter. Polymerase chain reaction methods were used to test participants' urine for Chlamydia trachomatis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, and Trichomonas vaginalis. Individual-level characteristics were assessed via survey. Administrative data described the census tracts where participants lived at each wave (e.g., sex ratios, violent crime rates, and poverty rates). Hypotheses were tested using multilevel models.
Results: Participants experienced improvements in all tract-level conditions studied and reductions in STIs over time (baseline: 29% tested STI positive; wave 4: 16% tested positive). Analyses identified a borderline statistically significant relationship between moving to tracts with more equitable sex ratios and reduced odds of testing positive for an STI (odds ratio, 0.16; 95% confidence interval, 0.02-1.01). Changes in other neighborhood conditions were not associated with this outcome.
Discussion: Consonant with past research, our findings suggest that moving to areas with more equitable sex ratios reduces the risk of STI infection. Future research should study the extent to which this relationship is mediated by changes in sexual network dynamics.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Microbiology (medical)
- Infectious Diseases