Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Public Health

First Advisor

Laura Salazar, PhD

Second Advisor

Richard Rothenberg, MD

Third Advisor

Michael P. Eriksen, ScD


The prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the United States is still high despite advances in prevention and therapies. Among all races and ethnic groups, African Americans are the most severely affected and face a disproportionate burden. African Americans account for a higher proportion of HIV infections and deaths than other races and ethnicities. In addition, one of the fastest growing segments of AIDS cases is patients more than 50 years of age. This segment receives little attention concerning HIV infection and as the U.S. population continues to age, it is important to be aware of specific HIV-related risks faced by these older African Americans and to ensure that they get information and services to help protect them from infection. This study aims to understand and compare the social network characteristics, perceived risk of getting HIV infection and HIV risk behaviors between younger (18 to 49 years of age) and older (50 plus years of age) African Americans living in high HIV prevalence zip codes of Atlanta, Georgia. The study population included 897 African Americans. Controlling for socio-demographic variables, multivariate analyses revealed that older African Americans have significant higher proportion of injection drug use, are less likely to get tested for HIV and more likely to have a risky sex partner (i.e., exchange sex for money or drugs); however, older African Americans were less likely to engage in sexual risk behaviors. Groups did not differ in terms of their perceived risk for HIV and social network characteristics. More research is necessary to understand their HIV-related risk behaviors, both sexual and drug use, and the specific needs for primary prevention effort of HIV/AIDS transmission among older African Americans.