New HIV Study on African American Couples

Maintaining a strong and stable relationship is challenging especially when one partner is HIV positive, technically known as sero-discordant couples. The Eban II Program is searching for heterosexual African American sero-discordant couples to participate in a behavioral study that will help such couples live normal lives and avoid transmitting the disease to the unaffected partner.

HIV transmission rates are significantly higher for African Americans. Though HIV and STIs are primarily transmitted in the context of relationships, few studies have addressed HIV risk in couples.

Dr. Gail Wyatt

Dr. Gail Wyatt

“Couples that find themselves in this situation face numerous issues, including facing decisions as to what level of sexual activity is comfortable for them,” said Dr. Gail Wyatt, principal investigator of the study, who has been a scientist for over 30 years and is associate director of the UCLA AIDS Institute. “Practicing safe sex reduces but does not eliminate the risk of transmitting the virus to the HIV negative partner. Couples must negotiate as to what level of sexual activity is comfortable for them,” said Wyatt.

EBAN is an African term that refers to safety, security and love in one’s family and community. The study is a collaborative effort between Alameda County Public Health Department and the UCLA Semel Institute.

“The study is important to African American couples who are infected and affected by HIV. They receive little or no support, and we need to work at promoting, protecting and preserving healthy relationships,” said Kabir Hypolite, director of Alameda County’s Office of AIDS Administration.

The program is currently recruiting couples from Oakland and Los Angeles, both known for high transmission rates. Couples may be eligible if at least one partner identifies as Black or African American; one partner is HIV+ and the other is HIV-; and one partner is male and the other is female. Call (510) 692-2643 for more information. All communication is confidential.

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