Rates of HIV infection continue to climb among minority populations and men who have sex with men (MSM), with African American/Black MSM being especially impacted. Numerous studies have found HIV transmission risk to be associated with many health and social disparities resulting from larger environmental and structural forces. Using anthropological and social environment-based theories of resilience that focus on individual agency and larger social and environmental structures, this dissertation employed a mixed methods design to investigate resilience processes among African American/Black MSM.
Quantitative analyses compared African American/Black (N=108) and Caucasian/White (N=250) MSM who participated in a previously conducted randomized controlled trial (RCT) of sexual and substance use risk reduction interventions. At RCT study entry, using past 90 day recall periods, there were no differences in unprotected sex frequency, however African American/Black MSM reported higher frequencies of days high (P
Qualitative data collected among a sub-sample of African American/Black MSM from the RCT (N=21) described the men’s experiences of living with multiple health and social disparities and the importance of RCT study assessments in facilitating reductions in risk behaviors. A cross-case analysis showed different resilience processes undertaken by men who experienced low socioeconomic status, little family support, and homophobia (N=16) compared to those who did not (N=5).
The dissertation concludes that resilience processes to HIV transmission risk and related health and social disparities among African American/Black MSM varies and are dependent on specific social environmental factors, including social relationships, structural homophobia, and access to social, economic, and cultural capital. Men define for themselves what it means to be resilient within their social environment. These conclusions suggest that both individual and structural-level resilience-based HIV prevention interventions are needed.