Partner Incarceration and African-American Women’s Sexual Relationships and Risk: A Longitudinal Qualitative Study

Hannah L.F. Cooper, Bethany Caruso, Terrika Barham, Venita Embry, Emily Dauria, Claire D. Clark, Megan L. Comfort

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Racialized mass incarceration is associated with racial/ethnic disparities in HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the US. The purpose of this longitudinal qualitative study was to learn about the processes through which partner incarceration affects African-American women’s sexual risk. Four waves of in-depth qualitative interviews were conducted in 2010–2011 with 30 women in Atlanta, Georgia (US) who had recently incarcerated partners. Approximately half the sample misused substances at baseline. Transcripts were analyzed using grounded theory. For over half the sample (N = 19), partner incarceration resulted in destitution, and half of this group (N = 9) developed new partnerships to secure shelter or food; most misused substances. Other women (N = 9) initiated casual relationships to meet emotional or sexual needs. When considered with past research, these findings suggest that reducing incarceration rates among African-American men may reduce HIV/STIs among African-American women, particularly among substance-misusing women, as might rapidly linking women with recently incarcerated partners to housing and economic support and drug treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)527-547
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Urban Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 5 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank the women who participated in this study and several community partners, including Fulton County Jail, Georgia Diagnostic and Classification State Prison, The Georgia Department of Corrections’ Division of Re-Entry Services, and the Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition. This study was funded by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse titled, “Exploring HIV risk in drug-using Black women with an incarcerated partner” (R21DA026327; PI: Cooper). Support for M. Comfort was provided by R01DA033847. Support for E. Dauria was provided by 1F31MH096630.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, The New York Academy of Medicine.


  • African-American women
  • HIV
  • Health disparities
  • Incarceration
  • Longitudinal methods
  • Qualitative methods
  • Sexually transmitted infections

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Urban Studies
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Partner Incarceration and African-American Women’s Sexual Relationships and Risk: A Longitudinal Qualitative Study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this