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Social, Structural, Behavioral, and Clinical Barriers Influencing Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) Use Among Young Black Men Who Have Sex with Men in the South: A Qualitative Update to a 2016 Study

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Antiretroviral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is highly effective in preventing HIV. Despite its promise, PrEP use is low, especially among young Black men who have sex with men (YBMSM). The prevalence of HIV in Mississippi (MS) is among the highest in the United States, with the bulk of new infections occurring amongst YBMSM living in Jackson, MS. We recruited 20 PrEP-eligible YBMSM and 10 clinic staff from MS health clinics between October 2021 and April 2022. Data were collected remotely using in-depth interviews and a brief survey, which lasted approximately 45–60 min. Interview content included PrEP knowledge/experiences, HIV risk perception, and PrEP use barriers and facilitators. Qualitative data were coded then organized using NVivo. Using thematic analysis methodology, data were assessed for current barriers to PrEP use. An array of barriers were identified by participants. Barriers included structural factors (cost of PrEP, lack of discreet clinics, time commitment, competing interests); social factors (unaware of HIV risk, stigma and homophobia, fear that partners would find out about PrEP use, not knowing anyone on PrEP); behavioral factors (sexual risk factors, denial, less priority for prevention vs treatment); and clinical factors (misunderstood side effects, fear PrEP won’t work). Significant barriers to PrEP use among YBMSM stem from structural, social, behavioral, and clinical factors. These results will inform intervention efforts tailored to mitigate barriers and improve PrEP uptake among YBMSM in the southern United States.

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This work was supported by the National Institutes of Mental Health: K23MH124539-01A1 and T32MH078788. Author time was also supported by the Providence/Boston Center for AIDS Research P30AI042853. Dr. Elwy is partially supported by Institutional Development Award Number U54GM115677 from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health, which funds Advance Clinical and Translational Research (Advance-CTR). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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Correspondence to Trisha Arnold.

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Dr. Rogers receives research funding from Gilead Sciences #IN-US-276-5463. Authors have disclosed all conflicts of interest.

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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. The study was approved by the University of Mississippi Institutional Review Board reviewed and approved this project, and its conduct was consistent with applicable federal law (Approval Number FWA00003630).

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Arnold, T., Giorlando, K.K., Barnett, A.P. et al. Social, Structural, Behavioral, and Clinical Barriers Influencing Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) Use Among Young Black Men Who Have Sex with Men in the South: A Qualitative Update to a 2016 Study. Arch Sex Behav 53, 785–797 (2024).

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