Profiles of young women’s alcohol and cannabis use linked to risk for sexually transmitted infection highlight the importance of multi-level targeted interventions: Findings from the Pittsburgh girls study

Tammy Chung, Alison E. Hipwell, Stephanie D. Stepp, Elizabeth Miller, Carolyn E. Sartor

Publication Date: 06/18/2021

Background: Social ecological models designed to understand disparities in sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevalence highlight understudied structural and community risk factors. Guided by a social ecological model, this study identified profiles based on substance use-related STI risk, and examined associations of the profiles with selected indicators of structural-, community-, and individual-level STI risk factors. Methods: Repeated measures latent class analysis was applied to Pittsburgh Girls Study data (n = 2,138; 58% Black, 42% White) at ages 18–20. Profile indicators included: women’s and partner’s alcohol and cannabis use, women’s sexual risk behavior, and self-reported STI. Profile predictors included racial background, structural-, community-, and individual-level risk factors. Results: Two of the five identified profiles had low STI likelihood: “Low Use” of alcohol and cannabis (25.5%; overrepresented by Black women), and “Alcohol Only” (19.1%; overrepresented by White women). Three profiles, all representing co-use of alcohol and cannabis, had higher STI likelihood: “Co-Use: Increasing Alcohol and Occasional Cannabis use” (16.5%; overrepresented by White women), “Co-Use: Occasional Alcohol and Cannabis use” (26.1%; overrepresented by Black women), and “Co-Use: Frequent Cannabis and Occasional Alcohol use” (12.8%; overrepresented by Black women). Structural STI risk (household use of public assistance at wave 1) was associated with “Low Use” and “Co-Use: Frequent Cannabis and Occasional Alcohol use” profiles. STI risk at multiple levels (structural, neighborhood, individual) was associated with the “Co-Use: Frequent Cannabis and Occasional Alcohol use” profile. Conclusions: Co-use of alcohol and cannabis is an important target for STI prevention efforts. Results also highlight structural- and community-level STI risk factors that disproportionately impact Black women, and the importance of multi-level interventions that are targeted to profile of risk to optimize the effectiveness of interventions.