Sexuality Center takes aim at health disparities

For a decade, SF State has been home to cutting-edge research and education on sexuality issues through two national centers. Now, the two entities -- the Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality and the National Sexuality Resource Center -- have joined forces as the Center for Research and Education on Gender and Sexuality (CREGS). The new Center unites research, education, training and policy work under one roof, with the goal of promoting healthy sexuality.

Colleen Hoff, professor of sexuality studies

Colleen Hoff, professor of sexuality studies, is director of the new Center for Research and Education on Gender and Sexuality.

Below, Director Colleen Hoff discusses what's ahead for the new Center.

Q: A key part of the Center's mission is to reduce sexual and reproductive health disparities in the U.S. What does that mean?

A: Sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, unintended pregnancies and intimate partner violence continue to be disproportionately high in Latino and African American communities. Our research looks at why this is the case.

Q: You're launching a campaign to increase diversity in the field of sexuality. How did this come about and how will you achieve it?

A: The students who come through our master's program in human sexuality aren't as ethnically diverse as the campus as a whole. And the sexuality field in general is largely made up of white males, which is concerning given that communities of color are the hardest hit by sexual health problems. We've applied for funding to create a paid training program where students in our master's program and graduate students from ethnic studies can take part in research internships at the Center. We also want to survey students and faculty to find out what barriers are preventing students of color from pursuing advanced training and careers in sexuality studies.

Q: What is the government's current thinking on sexual health and how is the Center responding?

A: The traditional model of addressing sexual health issues used to be disease prevention. The message was "use a condom and you won't get AIDS." It was a limited approach because it didn't put sex and sexuality into the context of people's lives -- their relationships, family and culture. In 2001, U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher issued a call to action to promote healthy sexuality and in recent years the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health have adopted a more holistic approach. At the Center, we've always looked at sexuality from a broader perspective so we're well poised to conduct research that will inform national policy.

Q: What research projects are underway at the Center?

We have the largest gay couples study in the U.S., and we are expanding it. We are recruiting new participants to help us understand more about sexual risk among couples. We just finished a study on the health of gay dads, and I'm in the early stages of the "You and Me" study, which explores relationship dynamics between black, white, and interracial black/white gay partners. We have submitted 10 papers to the International AIDS Conference, being held this summer in Washington, D.C., where we hope to present our findings.

Q: As the two centers merge, what are you looking forward to?

It's exciting to be bringing together the research strengths of each one. It gives us a reach we didn't have before. For example, this spring we are starting a series of professional development events for therapists, teachers, nurses and nurse practitioners. Our researchers will provide training for professionals in how sexuality intersects with their discipline and how they can become more comfortable discussing sex with the people they serve.


The Center for Research and Education on Gender and Sexuality is located at the Downtown Campus and is part of the College of Health and Human Services. For more information, see

-- Elaine Bible