Black gay men may be at increased HIV risk

Preferences in the race of sexual partners influenced by subtle racism may perpetuate HIV-related health disparities.

Black gay men have less choice when it comes to sexual partners than other groups and, as a result, their sexual networks are closely knit. These tightly interconnected networks make the rapid spread of HIV more likely. In a study1 looking at social and sexual mixing between ethnic groups in men who have sex with men, H. Fisher Raymond and Willi McFarland, from the San Francisco Department of Public Health in the US, show that social barriers faced by Black gay men may have a serious impact on their health and well-being. Their findings are published in Springer's journal AIDS and Behavior.

In the US, there is a disproportionate burden of HIV infection in Black Americans, who accounted for nearly half of all HIV/AIDS cases diagnosed in 2006 - four times the national average. Raymond and McFarland's research looks at the current levels of sexual mixing between racial and ethnic groups of men who have sex with men in San Francisco, and identifies reasons that underlie these sexual mixing patterns.

A total of 1,142 gay men took part in computer-assisted interviews. They were asked about their own ethnicity, the race of their sexual partners in the last six months, their perception of how easy it is to meet sexual partners of different ethnicities, where they meet sexual partners, their view of HIV infection risk and the predominant race of their network of friends.

Black gay men are the least preferred of sexual partners by other races. Black men are perceived to be riskier to have sex with, which can lead to men of other races avoiding Black men as sexual partners. They are also perceived as less welcome in the common social venues of gay men in San Francisco. As a result, Black men are three times more likely to have sexual partners that are also Black, than would be expected by chance alone.

In the authors' view, the combination of attitudes on the part of non-Black gay men, friendships and social networks that are less likely to include Blacks, and the environments found in gay venues serve to separate Black gay men from other groups. Consequently, the sexual networks of Blacks are pushed to be more highly interconnected than other groups, with the potential for a more rapid spread of HIV and a higher sustained prevalence of infection among Black gay men.

The authors conclude: "The racial disparity in HIV observed for more than a decade will not disappear until the challenges posed by a legacy of racism towards Blacks in the US are addressed."

Full bibliographic information: Raymond HF & McFarland W (2009). Racial mixing and HIV risk among men who have sex with men. AIDS and Behavior; DOI 10.1007/s10461-009-9574-6

http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10461-009-9574-6

Comments

  1. charles charles United States says:

    African Americans are the least desirable of sexual partners?  This is a racist premise. Could it be that African American gay men prefer African American gay men.  

  2. Robert Robert United States says:

    Within the gay community, black men have always been seen as the reason why other gay racial groups got HIV/AIDS in the first place and it is very frowned apon to be what is called a dinge queen these days and can kill your social life.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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