The Relationship Between Discrimination and High-Risk Social Ties by Race/Ethnicity

Looking out from inside a car at an urban street.

The Issue:

Black and Hispanic drug users have higher prevalence of HIV transmission than White drug users. Those who use drugs and are discriminated against because of race/ethnicity may also be exposed to more high-risk social ties and more opportunities for HIV transmission.

Discrimination due to race, drug use, or previous incarceration may lead to isolation, and limited access to health information and health services, as well as housing and employment opportunities.

In this sample, more non-drug injection users (10.7%) were HIV positive, compared to injection drug users (2.4%). Since Latinos and Whites had larger injecting networks than Blacks, injection ties added little to HIV risk. For Blacks who report racial discrimination, the risk of HIV was more likely to be from sex.

About the Study:

Investigators looked at the relationship between discrimination and high-risk social ties within racial/ethnic groups. They used data from injection drug users and non-users enrolled in a New York City study (2005–2009).

Participants provided names and behaviors—social ties, sex ties, drug-using ties—of key people in their social networks over the previous five years. They were asked questions about being discriminated against because of age, race, sex, sexual orientation, poverty, drug use, having been incarcerated, religion, and mental or physical illness.