The Center for Black Equity and the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health are partnering on a new research project to study reasons for increased risk of HIV infection among African-American men who have sex with men (MSM).
The project, funded by a $3.2 million grant from the National Institute of Nursing Research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will seek to enroll nearly 6,000 African-American MSM who attend Black Gay Pride events in large cities nationwide.
“It has become clear in recent years that the major reason that African-American MSM have such high rates of HIV infection is not that these men have high rates of risk-taking behaviors for infection,” said Ron Stall, Ph.D., M.P.H., director of the Center for LGBT Health Research at Pitt Public Health. “Rather, the reason for elevated infection has far more to do with lack of access to HIV testing and medical care.”
“By learning more about the barriers to HIV testing and access to care among people positive for HIV, we can do a better job of preventing new HIV infections among African-American MSM and keep those infected healthy for many years to come,” said Earl Fowlkes, president and chief executive officer of the Center for Black Equity.
Dr. Stall and his team plan to recruit men for their study at Black Gay Pride events in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. Black Gay Pride events have grown to become a social movement in the United States attended by an estimated 300,000 people annually.
The men will be asked questions as part of an anonymous survey that will help researchers understand the barriers and facilitators to HIV testing and care.
In addition to data about HIV risk in this population, the study will generate information about other social determinants that are likely to be important to the overall health of African-American MSM, including depression, substance use, violence victimization and other health problems. Finally, the study will measure specific resiliencies – or the ability to avoid negative health outcomes – that may be important resources for health, even among men who must cope with adverse social environments.
“It is exciting to be part of a study that will create the largest sample of HIV-related data from African-American MSM ever taken, and one that will yield important data about the health and well-being of our community. The Center for Black Equity will work with our partners at the University of Pittsburgh to ensure that these data are shared with the community and can be used to improve the health of these men,” said Mr. Fowlkes.
“We are very excited about the opportunity to work with the Center for Black Equity to put an important study like this into the field,” said Dr. Stall. “HIV/AIDS has been a crisis in the African-American MSM community for more than 30 years, and it is past time that we took this epidemic more seriously. We hope that this study, in collaboration with other research and care efforts, will provide a real contribution to bringing this dangerous epidemic to an end.”