Objectives: To examine how social networks influence HIV risk among US racial/ethnic minority men who have sex with men (MSM) and whether the associations of social network characteristics with risk vary by race/ethnicity.
Methods: A chain-referral sample of 403 African American, 393 Asian/Pacific Islander, and 400 Latino MSM recruited in Los Angeles County, California, completed a questionnaire, which asked about their egocentric social networks, safer sex peer norms, and male anal intercourse partners. HIV-nonconcordant partnerships were those reported by respondents as serodisconcordant or where self and/or partner serostatus was unknown.
Results: Overall, 26% of the sample reported HIV-nonconcordant unprotected anal intercourse (UAI) with a nonprimary male partner in the previous 6 months. In a generalized estimating equation (GEE) logistic model that controlled for race/ethnicity, age, nativity, incarceration history, and HIV status, being in a more dense network was associated with less HIV-nonconcordant UAI [adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 0.92, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.86 to 0.99, P = 0.0467]. In addition, the effect of safer sex peer norms on HIV-nonconcordant UAI was moderated by ego-alter closeness (P = 0.0021). Safer sex peer norms were protective among those reporting “medium” or “high” ego-alter closeness (AOR = 0.70, 95% CI: 0.52 to 0.95, P = 0.0213 and AOR = 0.48, 95% CI: 0.35 to 0.66, P < 0.0001, respectively), but not among those reporting “low” ego-alter closeness (AOR = 0.96, 95% CI: 0.63 to 1.46, P = 0.8333). The effects of density, closeness, and norms on HIV-nonconcordant UAI did not differ by race/ethnicity.
Conclusions: The significant association of social network characteristics with UAI point to network-level factors as important loci for both ongoing research and HIV prevention interventions among US MSM of color.