BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The Kinsey Institute at Indiana University is launching a new Disability and Sexual Health Initiative that will focus on under-researched populations with disabilities, starting with a study on condom use. The initiative is a partnership between the Kinsey Institute and the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington.
“The Kinsey Institute has been committed to exploring the complexity of sexual experiences and relationships for 75 years, and the Disability and Sexual Health Initiative will give much-needed attention to understanding and improving the intimate lives and sexual well-being of people with disabilities,” said Justin Garcia, executive director of the Kinsey Institute.
Co-founders of the initiative are Jennifer Piatt, research fellow at the Kinsey Institute and associate professor in the School of Public Health’s Department of Health and Wellness Design, and William Yarber, senior scientist at the Kinsey Institute and Provost Professor in the School of Public Health’s Department of Applied Health Science.
Their first study focuses on people with blindness or visual impairment and condom use issues.
“The disability population is one of the largest minority populations in the U.S., yet they’ve been underrepresented and understudied,” Piatt said. “Our research will shed light on the sexual experiences of different persons with disabilities, which we know can impact quality of life.”
The initial study, funded by a grant from the Kinsey Institute, is in the data collection phase and will explore participants’ beliefs about and experiences using condoms, what’s needed to increase correct and pleasurable condom use, and challenges related to condom availability and partner acceptance.
Students will play an integral role in the research, with Ph.D. students Kirsten Greer and Ivanka Simic Stanojevic serving as core members of the team. Two undergraduate students will serve as researchers, including one who is engaged with the Emerging Scholars Research Experience for Undergraduate Women. Dr. Christopher Clark from the School of Optometry is also part of the research team, along with Ph.D. student Mika Baugh.
“Having students involved in the Disability and Sexual Health Initiative will help prepare them to be future research leaders,” Yarber said. “Their work will help us identify gaps in current condom use education among different disability populations, with the goal of identifying solutions to improve correct and pleasurable condom usage.”
The research team plans to conduct additional condom use studies focused on people with different disabilities.