Date of Award

Spring 5-14-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

First Advisor

Aileen B. Rothbard, ScD

Second Advisor

Lani V. Jones, PhD


Compared to women of all racial categories within the United States, Black women continue to have higher incidence rates for contracting HIV/AIDS. Black women contract HIV at more than 10x the rate of their White and minority counterparts (CDC, 2014). Among Black women diagnosed with HIV, over 80% reported contracting it through unprotected heterosexual intercourse (Institute, 2012). Research on sexual behavioral risks for contracting HIV/AIDS has contributed to targeted racial and gender-based HIV prevention programs that provide education and skills training in utilizing risk-reduction methods during heterosexual intercourse (CDC, 2015). However, the continued disproportionality of HIV incidence among Black women necessitates further examination of why this difference persists. Although research has shown the impact of depression on various health outcomes, understanding depression symptomatology relationally with high risk sexual behaviors, and the underlying reasons behind those behaviors, has been an underexplored area within HIV prevention research of Black women. To increase knowledge of the lived experiences of Black women, this quantitative research study explored the following question: Is there a relationship between risky sexual behaviors and depression symptomatology among adult Black women who engage in heterosexual intercourse? The aims of the study were to better understand: 1) the sexual behavioral practices of Black women; 2) depression experiences among Black women; and 3) the relationship between depression symptomatology and sexual behavioral practices as an indicator of HIV risk. To achieve these aims, the study tested the following hypothesis: Adult Black women who report depressive symptoms will be more likely to engage in high risk sexual behaviors than Black women who are not depressed. A non-probability convenience sample of 48 Black women (n=48) from urban communities in the northeast completed two questionnaires measuring depressive symptoms and sexual behaviors. Findings revealed that the presence of depression symptomatology was positively associated with high-risk sexual behaviors among Black women in the sample. Additionally, age was found to be a factor in both depression and sexual risk behavior. This study is recognized as a beginning towards understanding how mental health impacts sexual risk for Black women. To address the disproportionately higher rate of HIV infections among Black women, it may be prudent to apply culturally-relevant mental health interventions that consider the psychological experiences of Black women at all stages of their emotional and sexual development. While not commonly implemented in existing HIV prevention programs, identifying strategies for integrating mental health interventions may have significance towards eliminating the disproportionately high HIV incidence rate among Black women in the United States.

Included in

Social Work Commons