Sex/Drug Tourism at the US/Mexico Border: Social Network Influences on HIV Risk

Funded by the NIDA, Grant 1 K01 DA031031; PI: Karla Wagner

This project is a 5-year National Institute on Drug Abuse-funded Mentored Research Scientist Development Award (K01). It contains both a training and research component. The aims of the training component are to receive training in social network analysis (SNA) and to increase understanding of the social epidemiology of HIV among drug users at the US/Mexico Border. This will be accomplished through a mix of structured coursework and independent study, in consultation with a bi-national mentoring team comprised of experts in social epidemiology and social network analysis. The aims of the research component are threefold:

  1. To describe the social, drug use, and sexual networks of drug-using male clients of female sex workers (FSWs) residing in San Diego, CA and Tijuana, Mexico.
  2. To assess the association between network characteristics and HIV risk behavior among drug-using male clients of FSWs.
  3. To compare the structure, composition, and influence of networks described by drug-using male clients who reside in San Diego and Tijuana.

To address these research aims, we will conduct a cross-sectional, egocentric social network study with 200 male clients of FSWs in Tijuana. Male clients of FSWs are a particularly high-risk group for HIV and STIs – they report high rates of drug use and considerable sexual risk behavior with both FSWs and other partners, thereby serving as a potential transmission ‘bridge’ between high and low risk groups. Findings from this study will be critical for developing tailored interventions for individuals at risk for HIV via sex and drug use in border regions, particularly among mobile individuals who cross the border in search of drugs or sex.