The Effects of Social Support in Preventing STIs/HIV among Transitional Age Youth in Foster Care
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The health consequences, social discrimination, shame and stigma in contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and/or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection are profound. Particularly affected by STIs/HIV are African American adolescents, a population of youth who are also disproportionately represented in foster care. While advances have been made in treating STIs/HIV, primary prevention strategies that avoid or reduce the risks of STIs/HIV among youth in foster care are lacking. The purpose of this study was to examine the social support African American transitional age youth in foster care received in preventing STIs/HIV and explore how their social networks enhanced their prevention efforts. Using a sequential, explanatory mixed methods design, Phase I consisted of a secondary analysis of baseline interviews from 115 Africa American youth participants (17-21 years old) enrolled in a larger experimental study (n = 185) investigating the effects of a mentoring intervention currently being conducted in Chicago. Phase II expanded on the statistical results from Phase I by exploring in more depth the support experienced by 18 participants who in Phase I reported using condoms to protect against STIs/HIV. Theory was constructed using Grounded Theory methods. Results from Phase I of the study indicated a statistically significant association between the participants’ gender and having been tested for STIs/HIV. Findings from Phase II showed that the participants were more likely to negotiate safe/r sex practices with a steady romantic partner when they received specific STI/HIV prevention messages from a combination of supportive sources including biological family members and foster care providers. Similar to the results in Phase I the female participants in Phase II relied more on STI/HIV testing than the male participants. The findings suggest that African American youth in foster care are more likely to negotiate safe/r sex practices with a steady partner when they receive four types of STI/HIV prevention messages from informal and formal sources. Effective messages convey a sense of caring and are clearly understood, truthful, and tangible. Further research is warranted to refine the typology that supports youth in protecting against STIs/HIV, particularly for diverse races/ethnicities, genders and sexual orientations.
SubjectFoster care, social support, transitional age youth