The Impact of Social Networks and Social /Political Group Participation on HIV Risk Behaviors Among African American Men Who Have Sex with Men

Wilson, P.A., Yoshikawa, H. & Peterson, J.L.

As we enter the third decade of the AIDS epidemic, HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death for Black U.S. citizens between the ages of 25-44. Black MSM have the highest incidence of AIDS in the U.S. Research is needed on the individual and contextual factors that place these men at risk. This study asks: 1) What are the profiles of social network and social/political group involvement for Black MSM? 2) Do levels of peer norms, AIDS knowledge, self-efficacy, and AIDS ethnocentrism differ for Black MSM according to their social networks and social activity? 3) Does HIV-risk differ for Black MSM according to their social involvement? METHODS: The sample consisted of 318 Black MSM. The average age was 31 years old, and 88% of the participants were single. 33% of the sample reported engaging in sexual behavior with both men and women. Measures included age, education level, make-up of social networks (race, sexual orientation), participation in social/political groups of Black gay, White gay and heterosexual types, levels of condom efficacy, peer norms, AIDS knowledge and AIDS ethnocentrism and number of instances of unprotected anal intercourse (UAI) in the past 6 months. Data were analyzed using cluster analysis, regression analysis and ANOVA. RESULTS: Men who were active in social/political groups were less likely to engage in UAI than men who were not active. This effect was mediated by higher condom efficacy and lower AIDS ethnocentrism. The study also showed that men with largely Black and gay networks reported higher UAI than men with White gay social networks. CONCLUSION: Results show that different social patterns among Black MSM can lead to different outcomes regarding HIV-risk. These findings will inform AIDS prevention efforts for Black MSM, and promote use of a framework that incorporates both individual and contextual factors in understanding HIV-risk.