In the District of Columbia (DC), where 3.2% of the population and 7.1% of black males are living with HIV, men having sex with men (MSM) remains the leading mode of transmission, accounting for 62% of all AIDS cases. Throughout the US, black MSM (BMSM) are most severely affected by the epidemic, representing an urgent public health crisis. Research done by Dr. Magnus and colleagues in DC corroborates findings of other studies that individual-level sexual behavior of BMSM is not alone responsible for the alarming rates of HIV/AIDS in this population. Structural barriers to HIV and sexual transmitted infection prevention and treatment, and general healthcare have been posited as correlates of the alarming HIV rates among BMSM and are poorly characterized. Previous data suggest that BMSM often receive culturally insensitive and alienating HIV prevention or care services, experience healthcare disparities, and have other unique structural barriers to care that have not been fully explored. While behavioral risk screening is generally performed for those engaging in high risk sex behavior should they access services, no validated, brief tool exists to rapidly and effectively screen for structural barriers to care. Despite recent advances in HIV prevention, including efficacy of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), treatment of the infected partner in a discordant pair (as found in HPTN 052), and current exploration of """"""""test and treat"""""""" paradigms (HPTN 065), the new tools to prevent HIV are found primarily in clinics;as a result, they will be given to persons regularly and comfortably accessing care. For BMSM who experience structural or societal barriers to care, these men will not reap the benefits of prevention advances. Detailed information regarding these structural barriers to care is required in order to inform new interventions to meet the unique needs of the population of BMSM: it is clear that current biomedical and behavioral interventions will not be able to slow the HIV/AIDS epidemic among BMSM if we cannot overcome these barriers by altering the healthcare system paradigms that prevent people from seeking care. This study will use a mixed-method approach to systematically examine the role of structural barriers to prevention and care services among BMSM. The investigators will base novel instrumentation on the Dynamic Social Systems Model, looking beyond individual-level barriers to care and characterizing societal and structural ones. Upon completion of instrument development with N=45 men, qualitative and quantitative methods will be used on a sample of N=100 peer-referred BMSM to enable evaluation of the instrument's ability to screen for structural barriers to care, and the resultant new rapid assessment structural barrier questionnaire piloted for feasibility on N=30 additional men. Data from this study will be used to inform development of a structural intervention in future studies. Given that the overwhelming majority of new infections are among BMSM, identifying barriers to biomedical and behavioral prevention services is critical to meeting the National HIV/AIDS Strategy benchmarks for reduction in HIV in the US.

Public Health Relevance

Structural barriers to biomedical and behavioral HIV prevention services exist among black men who have sex with men, but are poorly characterized, presenting challenges in slowing the epidemic among those at highest risk. Through development and use of a novel and effective screening instrument among 175 BMSM, this study will inform structural intervention development for BMSM.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Behavioral and Social Consequences of HIV/AIDS Study Section (BSCH)
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Kamath, Susannah M Allison
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George Washington University
Public Health & Prev Medicine
Schools of Public Health
United States
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