Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 46, Issue 7, pp 2173–2185 | Cite as

The Committed Intimate Partnerships of Incarcerated African-American Men: Implications for Sexual HIV Transmission Risk and Prevention Opportunities

  • Maria R. Khan
  • Nabila El-Bassel
  • Carol E. Golin
  • Joy D. Scheidell
  • Adaora A. Adimora
  • Ashley M. Coatsworth
  • Hui Hu
  • Selena Judon-Monk
  • Katie P. Medina
  • David A. Wohl
Original Paper


Incarceration is thought to influence HIV transmission by disrupting partnerships that provide support and protect against sex risk-taking. Current correctional facility-based family-strengthening programs focus on marital partnerships, a minority of inmates’ partnerships. Research on the sex partnerships of incarcerated African-American men and the types of partnerships most likely to protect against HIV-related sex risk is limited. Improved understanding can inform expansion of correctional facility-based family-strengthening programs to a greater proportion of protective partnerships and HIV risk reduction programs to partnerships vulnerable to sex risk. Project DISRUPT is a cohort study of African-American men being released from prison in North Carolina who were in committed heterosexual partnerships at prison entry. Using baseline survey data (N = 189), we conducted latent class analysis (LCA) to identify subgroups of participants with distinct relationship profiles and measured associations between relationship characteristics and multiple partnerships of inmates and their partners in the six months before incarceration. LCA indicated a two-class solution, with relationships distinguished by satisfaction/stability (satisfied/stable class: 58.0%; dissatisfied/unstable class: 42.0%); each class had comparable relationship length and levels of marriage and cohabitation. Dissatisfied/unstable relationships were associated with multiple partnerships among participants (AOR 2.93, 95% CI 1.50, 5.72) and partners (AOR 4.95, 95% CI 1.68, 14.58). Satisfaction indicators—versus length, marriage, or cohabitation—were the strongest independent correlates of inmates’ and partners’ multiple partnerships. Pre-incarceration economic deprivation, mental disorder symptoms, substance use, and violence in relationships were associated with dissatisfaction/instability. Prison-based programs designed to maintain healthy partnerships, strengthen relationship skills, and reduce HIV risk-taking and violence in relationships are warranted and should be targeted to both marital and nonmarital partnerships. Programming also should address the poverty, mental illness, and substance use factors that threaten relationship satisfaction/stability and increase HIV risk.


Incarceration Committed partnerships Sexual risk behavior HIV 



This study was funded by NIH NIDA R01DA028766 (PI: Khan), University of North Carolina Center for AIDS Research [AI050410] and NIH 1K24HD059358 (Dr. Adimora); Dr. Golin’s salary was partially supported by K24 HD06920.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in the study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria R. Khan
    • 1
  • Nabila El-Bassel
    • 2
  • Carol E. Golin
    • 3
    • 4
  • Joy D. Scheidell
    • 1
  • Adaora A. Adimora
    • 5
    • 6
  • Ashley M. Coatsworth
    • 7
  • Hui Hu
    • 7
  • Selena Judon-Monk
    • 5
  • Katie P. Medina
    • 5
  • David A. Wohl
    • 5
  1. 1.Division of Comparative Effectiveness and Decision Science, Department of Population HealthNew York University School of MedicineNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Social Intervention GroupColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Division of General Internal Medicine and Epidemiology, Department of Medicine, School of MedicineUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  4. 4.Department of Health Behavior, Gillings School of Global Public HealthUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  5. 5.Division of Infectious DiseaseUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of MedicineChapel HillUSA
  6. 6.Department of Epidemiology, Gillings School of Global Public HealthUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  7. 7.Department of EpidemiologyUniversity of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions, College of MedicineGainesvilleUSA

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