, Volume 88, Issue 6, pp 1052-1062
Date: 01 Sep 2011

A Comparison of the Social and Sexual Networks of Crack-Using and Non-Crack Using African American Men who Have Sex with Men

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The role of crack cocaine in accelerating the HIV epidemic among heterosexual populations has been well documented. Little is known about crack use as an HIV risk factor among African American men who have sex with men (AA MSM), a group disproportionately infected with HIV. We sought to compare the social and sexual network characteristics of crack-using and non-crack using AA MSM in Baltimore, MD, USA and to examine associations of crack use with sexual risk. Participants were recruited using street-based and internet-based outreach, printed advertisements, word of mouth. Inclusion criteria were being aged 18 years or older, African American or of black race/ethnicity, and have self-reported sex with another male in the prior 90 days. Crack use was operationalized as self-report of crack in the prior 90 days. Logistic regression was used to identify variables that were independently associated with crack use. Of 230 enrolled AA MSM, 37% (n = 84) reported crack use. The sexual networks of crack-using AA MSM were composed of a greater number of HIV-positive sex partners, exchange partners, and partners who were both sex and drug partners and fewer networks with whom they always use condoms as compared to non-crack using AA MSM. Crack use was independently associated with increased odds of bisexual identity and networks with a greater number of exchange partners, overlap of drug and sex partners, and lesser condom use. Results of this study highlight sexual network characteristics of crack-smoking AA MSM that may promote transmission of HIV. HIV interventions are needed that are tailored to address the social context of crack-smoking AA MSM risk behaviors.