CHICAGO — Young black men who have sex with men (MSM) are 16 times more likely to contract HIV than their white peers despite more frequent testing for HIV and being less likely to have unsafe sex, according to a new Northwestern Medicine study, MedicalXPress reports.
The study was recently published in the Journal of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndromes. If these rates persist, one out of two black MSM will become infected with HIV at some point in their lives, compared to one in five Hispanic MSM and one in 11 white MSM, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study is the largest and most comprehensive to assess why these disparities exist. It analyzed young black MSM’s social networks, such as past sexual partners, as well as measures of stress, past trauma and stigma, MedicalXPress reports.
The authors used data from RADAR, a project funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, that identifies drivers of HIV infections on multiple levels, including sexual partner and relationship characteristics, network dynamics and community-level factors. The study collected data from 1,015 MSM between the ages of 16-29 living in the Chicago area, MedicalXPress reports.
Among the study’s key findings about racial disparities in HIV infection:
• Black MSM reported the lowest number of sexual partners overall.
• Black MSM tested for HIV more frequently but were more likely to have a detectable HIV viral load if HIV positive.
• Black MSM were more likely to report not having close relationships with their sexual partners.
• Black MSM were more likely to report hazardous marijuana use, while white MSM were more likely to report high levels of alcohol problems.
• Black MSM experienced greater levels of stigma, victimization, trauma and childhood sexual abuse.