Graduation Year

2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.S.P.H.

Degree Name

MS in Public Health (M.S.P.H.)

Degree Granting Department

Community and Family Health

Major Professor

Ellen Daley, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Committee Member

Rasheeta Chandler, Ph.D., ARNP, FNP-BC,

Committee Member

Dinorah Martinez-Tyson, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.A.

Keywords

HIV/STIs, Risk-Reduction, Unintended Pregnancy, Virtual Reality (VR)

Abstract

Background: College settings are likely environments for Black women to contract STIs (including HIV) or experience unintentional/unwanted pregnancies. Effective prevention strategies for this population include dialogue and activities that focus on gender, maturity, cultural barriers, personal strength, and information needs. However, technological advancements (including virtual reality) and innovation are limited in prevention efforts.

Methods: Four 90-minute focus group sessions were conducted in a convenience sample of Black college females (ages 18 years or older) and a research-intensive public institution in the southeast. A series of surveys were distributed during each audio-recorded focus group session. A mixed-method approach to data analysis was based on applications of the Health Belief Model constructs to three principal research questions: (1) Q1: How do Black college females perceive the importance of sexual risk topics? (2) What are the experiences and attitudes of Black college females regarding the use of VR for education and training versus video game entertainment (i.e. “gaming)? and (3) Among Black college females, what sexual risk topics are considered most relevant to a VR education and training platform?

Results: Each of four study cohorts enrolled between 2-6 participants each (n=15). Participant ages ranged from 18-48 (x̅=28.6, σ=9.2) years within age groups of 18-24 years (60%, n=9), 25-34 years (26.7%, n=4), and 35 years or above (13.3%, n=2). The majority of participants (86.7%, n=13) were enrolled as full-time students, and resided in various off-campus locations (73.3%; n=11). Assessments of sexual risk topic importance were reported based on aggregated Survey 1 Lickert scale values. The majority of participants equally viewed the topics of HIV and STI status as important, mostly important, or very important. Other notable concerns include sex with drug/alcohol use, risk of intimate partner violence, and sexual communication (e.g. partners and peers. Despite the lack of formal virtual reality knowledge, the majority of participants reported experience with VF technology via “gaming” (e.g. SIMS). They also concluded that a virtual reality platform for sexual health education and training should involve comprehensive approaches to HIV/STI and unintentional pregnancy via use of barrier methods, including birth control, as well as facilitation of sexual communication.

Discussion: This research represents a unique approach to the identification of sexual health risk importance for HIV/STI transmission, as well as unintentional pregnancy, in Black college females. Although a successful demonstration of feasibility, this research is formative in nature – results should be interpreted as preliminary. However, methods and concepts presented in this thesis hold the potential for scientific contribution in prevention research, clinical practice, and other fields of study.

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