The Influence of Religion on Sexual HIV Risk


Religion, HIV/AIDS, Sexual risk, Religiosity


This systematic review examines the relationship between religion and sexual HIV risk behavior. It focuses primarily on how studies have conceptualized and defined religion, methodologies, and sexual risk outcomes. We also describe regions where studies were conducted and mechanisms by which religion may be associated with sexual risk. We included 137 studies in this review, classifying them as measuring: (1) only religious affiliation (n = 57), (2) only religiosity (n = 48), and (3) both religious affiliation and religiosity (n = 32). A number of studies identified lower levels of sexual HIV risk among Muslims, although many of these examined HIV prevalence rather than specific behavioral risk outcomes. Most studies identified increased religiosity to be associated with lower levels of sexual HIV risk. This finding persists but is weaker when the outcome considered is condom use. The paper reviews ways in which religion may contribute to increase and reduction in sexual HIV risk, gaps in research, and implications for future research on religion and HIV.

Original Publication Citation

Shaw, S.A. & El-Bassel, N. (2014). The influence of religion on sexual HIV risk. AIDS & Behavior. 18(8), 1569-1594.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


AIDS and Behavior




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Social Work

University Standing at Time of Publication

Assistant Professor