New Study Explores Alcohol Use and HIV Risk in the Dominican Republic

October 20, 2008 @ 4:00 am

For Immediate Release

October 20, 2008

New York, NY – Associate professor Vincent Guilamo-Ramos of the Columbia University School of Social Work and assistant professor Mark Padilla of the University of Michigan School of Public Health have been awarded a $430,000 grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The grant will be used to develop a venue-based alcohol and HIV-prevention intervention for adults in the Dominican Republic (D.R.).

Among the countries in the Caribbean, D.R. has one of the highest rates of HIV infection.  Sex tourism – tourism in which sexual exchanges with locals are a prominent feature and common motive for travel – has been the key factor in the region’s HIV epidemic.  The growth of the tourism economy has also fueled the country’s rise of alcohol consumption.  High-use alcohol venues such as bars, discos, hotels, and nightclubs have expanded their supply and availability of alcohol to support the tourist industry.  Many of these venues also operate as informal brothels, consequently presenting increased opportunities for HIV-related sexual risk behaviors among tourists, local tourist workers and commercial sex workers.

The proposed study will examine the relationship and emerging problem between tourism, alcohol abuse and sexual risk behavior in the D.R. to develop effective HIV-prevention interventions in high-use alcohol venues.  Research will be conducted in the town of Sosúa, a major international tourist destination dubbed as a “sexscape” due to the prominence of sex tourism in the local economy. 

“This study moves beyond research focusing exclusively on the characteristics of presumably distinct risk populations, such as sex workers, to focus instead on identifying the features of venues that are salient in creating a synergy between alcohol use and HIV risk in tourism areas,” says Dr. Guilamo-Ramos. “In doing so, we hope to develop targeted, culturally-appropriate, applied public health interventions for alcohol users.”

Dr. Guilamo-Ramos and Dr. Padilla will also collaborate with professor Yoanis Ferreira Rodríguez Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo Recinto Puerto Plata and Dr. James Jaccard, professor of psychology at Florida International University.

For more information about the study or to interview Dr. Guilamo-Ramos, please contact Jeannie Hii at 212-851-2327 or