Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don't: Religion and HIV-Risk Network Structure

Jimi Adams, Ohio State University

While scholars have recently begun examining the link between religion and HIV-risk, their focus consistently conceptualizes both religion and risk as individual level factors. In this paper I show that this focus considerably limits our ability to understand the theorized relationships. The attention in existing research devoted to individual's “risk” behaviors, fails to recognize the important role of their partner(s)' characteristics in the riskiness of those behaviors. I draw on observed data for a number of sexual partnerships – constrained by gender and religious affiliation – to simulate networks from which I estimate how readily those differences subsequently correspond to changes in network-level factors of HIV-risk. By conceptualizing HIV-risk as a problem of network position, I demonstrate how reductions in risk behaviors resulting from religious participation (observed in previous work) can actually generate little-to-no effect on group level risk, and can even correspond to increases in group level risk.

  See extended abstract

Presented in Session 130: Sexual Behavior, Sexual Networks, STDs