Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 237-243

First online:

Unpacking the racial disparity in HIV rates: the effect of race on risky sexual behavior among Black young men who have sex with men (YMSM)

  • Elise M. ClerkinAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • , Michael E. NewcombAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • , Brian MustanskiAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at ChicagoUniversity of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center Email author 

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The purpose of this study is to evaluate the large disparity in HIV prevalence rates between young Black and White Americans, including young men who have sex with men (YMSM). Research focusing on individual behaviors has proven insufficient to explain the disproportionately high rate of HIV among Black YMSM. The purpose of the present study was to gain a greater understanding of the pronounced racial disparity in HIV by evaluating whether YMSM are more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors as a function of their partner’s race. Participants included 117 YMSM from a longitudinal study evaluating lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth (ages 16–20 at baseline), who reported characteristics and risk behaviors of up to 9 sexual partners over an 18-month period. Results indicated that participants were less likely to have unprotected sex with Black partners, and this finding was not driven by a response bias (i.e., Black YMSM did not appear to be minimizing their reports of unprotected sex). Furthermore, there was support for the hypothesis that participants’ sexual networks were partially determined by their race insofar as sexual partnerships were much more likely to be intra-racial (as opposed to interracial). It is possible that dyad- and sexual network-level factors may be needed to understand racial disparities in HIV among YMSM.


HIV disparity YMSM Gay Race