Sexual health promotion in Chennai, India: Key role of communication among social networks

Sudha Sivaram, Sethulakshmi Johnson, Margaret E. Bentley, Vivian F. Go, Carl Latkin, A. K. Srikrishnan, David D. Celentano, Suniti Solomon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Communication about sex and sexual health is an important facilitator in gaining accurate knowledge about prevention of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and promotion of sexual health. Understanding how and with whom communication about sex occurs and the nature of the information exchanged is valuable in designing sexual risk prevention interventions. In this study of low-income communities residents in Chennai, India, our aim was to understand the composition of personal communication networks, the nature of information related to sex and sexual health that is exchanged in these networks and the value of communication among members of these networks. We conducted in-depth open-ended interviews using a structured interview guide with 43 individuals. We also conducted 12 focus group discussions. Individuals were selected using snowball sampling. Our results indicate that information about sex and sexual health is exchanged within and between four groups: married women, married men, unmarried men and unmarried women. Communication leads to an expansion of sexual networks among unmarried men and treatment seeking behaviour for STDs in all groups. Unmarried men offer immense potential for intervention given the range of topics related to sex and sexual health that are discussed and the risky sexual behaviours practiced. Spousal communication about sexual behaviour or sexual health is minimal and shifting norms for prevention would be difficult. Interventions identifying communication networks and influencing the natural communication patterns in these networks may be a viable HIV prevention strategy in the study area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-333
Number of pages7
JournalHealth promotion international
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2005


  • HIV communication
  • India
  • Social networks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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