Online social networking sites (SNS)—the Internet-based platforms that enable connection and communication between users—are increasingly salient social environments for young adults and, consequently, offer tremendous opportunity for HIV behavioral research and intervention among vulnerable populations like young men who have sex with men (YMSM). Drawing from a cohort of 525 young Black MSM (YBMSM) living in Chicago, IL, USA April 2014–May 2015, we conducted social network analysis, estimating an exponential random graph model (ERGM) to model YBMSM’s group affiliations on Facebook in relation to their sex behaviors and HIV prevention traits. A group’s privacy setting—public, closed, or secret—was also modeled as a potential moderator of that relationship. Findings reveal that HIV positive individuals were more likely to affiliate with Facebook groups, while those who engaged in group sex were less likely to do so. When it came to the privacy of groups, we learned that HIV positive individuals tended not to belong to groups with greater privacy (e.g., closed and secret groups), while individuals who engaged in group sex and those who engaged in regular HIV testing were more likely to belong to those groups. Results also showed that individuals who engaged in condomless sex showed significant signs of clustering around the same set of groups. HIV positive individuals, on the other hand, were significantly less likely to demonstrate clustering. Implications for interventions and future research are discussed.
HIV prevention Sex behaviors Social networking sites Social network analysis Young men who have sex with men
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This work was conducted under the auspices of the uConnect Study Team. We would like to thank our partners at the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago Stuart Michaels, Ishida Robinson, Eve Zurawski, Billy Davis and Michelle Taylor for their invaluable support. We also thank study participants for their time and contribution to the study.
This work was supported in part by NIH Grants R01DA033875, R01MH100021 and R01DA039934.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
Dr. Lindsay Young declares she has no conflict of interest. Dr. Kayo Fujimoto declares that she has no conflict of interest. Dr. John Schneider declares that he has no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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