November 5, 2008
Xiaoming Li, Ph.D.
Dr. Xiaoming Li, Ph.D., has secured a five-year, $2,629,634 grant from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health to study the link between alcohol use and the spread of HIV/AIDS among female sex workers in a single southern province in China. The findings could have ramifications for at-risk populations throughout the world.
Dr. Li is professor and director of the Prevention Research Center in the Carman and Ann Adams Department of Pediatrics. Established in 2003, the Pediatrics Prevention Research Center’s main research focus is to reduce health disparities in both domestic and international settings. These areas of research include HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases, substance abuse, pediatric obesity and treatment adherence among children with chronic diseases such as diabetes and asthma.
Dr. Li’s project will develop, implement and evaluate a venue-based alcohol and HIV risk reduction intervention center for establishment-based female sex workers in Guangxi, China. The sex trade is more prevalent in Guangxi, Dr. Li said, an area ranked third in the rate of HIV among provinces.
“The global literature indicates an important role of alcohol use, especially problem drinking (abuse), in facilitating HIV/AIDS transmission in commercial sex venues where elevated alcohol use/abuse and sexual risk behaviors frequently co-occur,” Dr. Li said. “We expect that the intervention will improve protective normative beliefs and institutional support regarding alcohol use and HIV protection.”
While prostitution is illegal in China, Dr. Li said, the government’s attitude and practice toward the sex trade has been mixed, bordering on tolerance.
The sex trade has increased dramatically the last 20 years in China, he said, especially with recent economic reform, and resulting economic disparities. Those not benefitting from China’s gradual acceptance of capitalism are often forced to turn to prostitution as a means of survival. Dr. Li said estimates indicate there may be as many as 10 million female prostitutes in China, many of them ranging in age from their teens to their early 20s.
Dr. Li also hopes that the intervention will reduce alcohol abuse, increase condom use and decrease the incidence of HIV/STD infection among female sex workers.
The research findings, he said, will “contribute to our knowledge base regarding the role of social influence and institutional policy in alcohol and sexual risk reduction among various vulnerable and at-risk populations” around the world.
This most recent grant was based on findings from a previous NIH grant to Dr. Li.
In addition, Dr. Li is working on three ongoing NIH-funded HIV-related projects totaling $4,484,482 in grants in China. One involves assessing psychosocial needs among children affected by AIDS in HenanProvince. Another consists of a behavioral HIV prevention intervention program among rural-to-urban migrants in Beijing. The third, a subcontract from Old Dominion University, involves behavioral HIV prevention among female entertainment workers in Shanghai.