AIDS and Behavior

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 173–184 | Cite as

“That Guy is Gay and Black. That’s a Red Flag.” How HIV Stigma and Racism Affect Perception of Risk Among Young Black Men Who Have Sex with Men

  • Joyell ArscottEmail author
  • Janice Humphreys
  • Elizabeth Merwin
  • Michael Relf
Original Paper


Young Black men who have sex with men’s (YBMSM) attitudes and personal beliefs about themselves and their risk for HIV can be modified as a result of experiences with racism and HIV stigma. In-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with 25 HIV-negative YBMSM, aged 18–24, in North Carolina and Maryland. Data were thematically analyzed to capture participants’ experiences and thoughts related to stigmatizing experiences and their perception of risk for HIV. Participants reported experiencing HIV stigmatizing and blatant racist commentary related to their identities as YBMSM. Participants described diverse strategies to distance themselves from these negative stereotypes and decrease their sexual risk for HIV. The findings highlight that HIV stigma and racial stereotypes are one of the many types of discrimination that YBMSM experience within the Black and gay communities and in society; leading to psychological distress and an altered perception of self and sexual risk.


HIV stigma MSM Internalized racism Internalized homophobia Risk perception 


Las actitudes y creencias personales sobre sí mismos y su riesgo de contraer el VIH en los jóvenes negros que tienen relaciones sexuales con hombres (YBMSM) pueden ser modificadas como resultado de las experiencias con el racismo y el estigma del VIH. Se realizaron entrevistas cualitativas en profundidad con 25 YBMSM VIH negativos, de 18 a 24 años de edad, en Carolina del Norte y Maryland. Los datos fueron analizados temáticamente para capturar las experiencias de los participantes y los pensamientos relacionados con las experiencias de estigmatización y su percepción del riesgo de contraer el VIH. Los participantes informaron haber experimentado estigmatización del VIH y comentarios racistas flagrantes relacionados con sus identidades como YBMSM. Los participantes describieron diversas estrategias para distanciarse de estos estereotipos negativos y disminuir su riesgo sexual de contraer el VIH. Los hallazgos resaltan que el estigma y los estereotipos raciales del VIH son uno de los muchos tipos de discriminación que YBMSM experimenta en la sociedad y dentro de las comunidades negra y homosexuales; conduciendo a la angustia psicológica y una percepción alterada de riesgo personal y sexual.



This study was funded in part by the 2016-2017 C. Everett Koop HIV/AIDS Research Grant, Indiana University, Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention; the Anne Zimmerman, RN, FAAN Endowment, American Nurses Foundation; and the Duke School of Nursing pilot and dissertation funds.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

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

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of NursingJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.School of NursingDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  3. 3.College of Nursing & Health InnovationUniversity of Texas at ArlingtonArlingtonUSA

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