Around half of the US adolescents between the age of 13 and 19 are found to be sexually active. Out of them, 14% are black adolescents and may account for 63% of new HIV cases.
More than 2 million people who are sexually active were found to experience depression. Unique psychological factors may explain differences in HIV/STI risk-related sexual behaviors among black adolescents with mental illness, finds a new study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.
‘Emotions are an important link to prevent HIV in black adolescents with mental illness.’
The findings suggest that psychoeducation and skills building may help severe the emotion-behavior link that contributes to HIV/STI risk among this demographic. The study, "Feelings Matter: Depression Severity and Emotion Regulation in HIV/STI Risk-Related Sexual Behaviors," which has been published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies, was designed to examine contextual factors related to HIV/STI risk among heterosexually active black adolescents with mental illnesses.
It explicitly focused on depression and emotion regulation to uncover how these factors influence sexual decision-making.
"Blacks, adolescents, and people with mental illnesses are all disproportionately affected by HIV/STIs," explains the study's lead author Bridgette M. Brawner, PhD, APRN, Assistant Professor of Nursing in the Department of Family and Community Health. "We know that the unique psychopathology of mental illness, including impulsivity and engaging in unprotected sex to alleviate depressed mood, may heighten one 's HIV/STI risk. Our study indicates we need to better understand unique HIV/STI prevention needs among black adolescents with mental illnesses and that improving coping mechanisms to help regulate emotion should be addressed in HIV/STI prevention research."