Article

Role Flexing: How Community, Religion, and Family Shape the Experiences of Young Black Men Who Have Sex with Men

1 Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , Atlanta, Georgia.
AIDS patient care and STDs (Impact Factor: 3.5). 11/2012; 26(12). DOI: 10.1089/apc.2012.0177
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT

Abstract While the disproportionate impact of HIV on young black men who have sex with men (MSM) is well documented, the reasons for this disparity remain less clear. Through in-depth interviews, we explored the role of familial, religious, and community influence on the experiences of young black MSM and identified strategies that these young men use to negotiate and manage their sexual minority status. Between February and April 2008, 16 interviews were conducted among HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected young (19- to 24-year-old) black MSM in the Jackson, Mississippi, area. Results suggest that overall, homosexuality remains highly stigmatized by the men's families, religious community, and the African American community. To manage this stigma, many of the participants engaged in a process of "role flexing," in which individuals modified their behavior in order to adapt to a particular situation. The data also provided evidence of internalized homophobia among a number of the participants. The impact of stigma on risk behavior should be more fully explored, and future intervention efforts need to explicitly address and challenge stigma, both among young men themselves and the communities in which they reside. Attention should also be paid to the role masculinity may play as a driver of the HIV epidemic among young black MSM and how this knowledge can be used to inform prevention efforts.

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    • "Social vulnerability to HIV among BMSM is exacerbated by mental health problems (e.g., depression, stress, substance abuse, and exposure to violence), which are associated with stigma and social marginalization (Mustanski, Garofalo, Herrick, & Donenberg, 2007; Reisner et al., 2009; Stall et al., 2003). Although research suggests that the family and religious institutions are critical sources of social support and inclusion within Black communities (Haley et al., 1996; McAdoo, 2007; Utsey, Bolden, Lanier, & Williams, 2007), studies have described the homophobia and the HIV-related stigma that BMSM face in religious institutions and the family (Balaji et al., 2012; Hussen et al., 2014; Valera & Taylor, 2011) as sources of HIV vulnerability. BMSM may experience greater psychosocial problems when they internalize multiple forms of social marginalization as racial and sexual minorities, which may be exacerbated in those living in poverty. "
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