Date of Conferral



Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)


Public Health


Aimee Ferraro


Numerous studies have shown a rising HIV/AIDS epidemic among U.S. Hispanics/Latinos. Risky sexual behavior, alcohol, drug abuse, and sociodemographics contribute to Hispanics/Latinos' elevated risk for contracting HIV and other STDs. There is a need for additional research to understand the combination of factors associated with HIV and other STD infection among Hispanic/Latino youth. Based on social cognitive theory, this study examined the influences of peer pressure and relationship knowledge on risky sexual behavior among Hispanic/Latino young adults as measured by the Peer Pressure Inventory (PPI), the Teenage Research Unlimited Survey (TRU), and the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). A group of 18-to-24 year olds (n = 173) from the 6 wards of Harris County, Houston, Texas completed the PPI, TRU and YRBS via paper questionnaires. Logistic regression determined a marginally significant association between relationship knowledge and number of lifetime sex partners. The remaining logistic regressions indicated no significant relationships between the variables of peer pressure, relationship knowledge, and risky sexual behavior. Descriptive statistics revealed that a large proportion of participants were engaging in several risky behaviors, including sex without condoms, sex while using alcohol or drugs, and sex with multiple partners. The results of this study also confirmed that Hispanics/Latinos aged 18-24 years are at risk for HIV and other STDs. Implications for positive social change include evidence to inform peer- and community-driven prevention programs targeting Hispanic/Latino young adults living and working in Harris County, Houston, Texas as a means to reduce transmission of STDs and HIV/AIDS in the Hispanic population.