By Mathew Rodriguez
Social and cultural pressures to adopt masculine norms — to act, to walk, to talk and to be as masculine as possible — cause young, black gay men extreme psychological distress and isolation, which can cause them to engage in “high-risk” behavior that can result in HIV transmission, according to research led by the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and newly published in the American Journal of Public Health. Often, these behaviors occur because young, black gay men are seeking approval and acceptance. However, these high-risk behaviors have resulted in young, black gay and bisexual men accounting for 4,800 new HIV infections in 2010 — about 10% of all the infections in the U.S., and more than twice that of either young white or young Hispanic/Latino gay and bisexual men, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study is the result of interviews conducted with 35 openly gay or bisexual young black men, as well as men who have sex with men, but who do not identify as gay or bisexual. Investigators stressed that their findings “offer one possible explanation for the disproportionately high HIV infection rate among young black men who have sex with men.”
“HIV risk is the sum total of many factors, but social and family stress is a well-known driver of all types of risk-taking behaviors, and our findings clearly support the notion this also holds true when it comes to HIV risk,” says study lead investigator Errol Fields, M.D., Ph.D., an adolescent medicine expert at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.
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