Monday July 8, 1996

Margaret Munro
Sun Science Reporter

Pg. A9

Vancouver researcher honored for study linking AIDS and sexual abuse

Vancouver researcher Steffanie Strathdee has learned a whole lot about gay sex and drug addiction while tracking the spread of HIV in Vancouver.

She also earned the respect of the international AIDS community, which will today had Strathdee a young investigator's award for her work with drug addicts on the Downtown Eastside.

Strathdee, 30, is thrilled with the honor and quick to share credit with her colleagues at the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

"It means I have a good team working with me. Without them I couldn't be doing this kind of research," says Strathdee, whose research suggests the lingering effects of sexual abuse, incest and rape are helping drive the spread of HIV among both drug addicts and young homosexual men.

From interviews with 281 addicts, her team found that drug users with a history of abuse are three times more likely to share needles than addicts who have not been abused. Their recent study of 287 gay men turned up a similar correlation. It found that men with a history of rape are twice as likely to have anal sex without a condom with casual partners than gay men who have not been abused.

Strathdee has concluded that the psychological effects of the abuse may explain why people keep putting themselves at risk. She says they have difficulty negotiating safe sex and can be so depressed or afraid of rejection that they they [sic] behave recklessly, sharing needles and having sex without a condom.

Eight young investigators from the hundreds of scientists presenting research at the conference have been chosen to receive the awards, which go to researchers 35 years or younger.

Strathdee is the only Canadian winner.

"It's a great honor," says Strathdee, who chuckles about the way she can discuss the finer points of anal sex and drug injection with academic detachment.

"Nothing makes me blush anymore," says Strathdee, who will stand up in a suit at the conference today and detail the various forms of anal receptive, anal insertive and oral sex among Vancouver's gay man [sic] and drug users.

"I know much more about behaviors that I will never engage in than the ones I actually do," says Strathdee, who is married with a young son.

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Created: July 31, 1996
Last modified: July 2, 1997

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