Discrepancies Between HIV Prevention Communication Attitudes and Actual Conversations About HIV Testing Within Social and Sexual Networks of African American Men Who Have Sex With Men

Tobin, Karin Elizabeth PhD*; Yang, Cui PhD*; Sun, Christina MPH*; Spikes, Pilgrim PhD; Latkin, Carl Asher PhD*

Sexually Transmitted Diseases: April 2014 - Volume 41 - Issue 4 - p 221–226
doi: 10.1097/OLQ.0000000000000112
Original Study

Background: Promoting communication among African American men who have sex with men (AA MSM) and their social networks about HIV testing is an avenue for altering HIV prevention social norms. This study examined the attitudes of AA MSM on talking with peers about HIV testing and characteristics of their network members with whom they have these conversations.

Methods: Data came from a cross-sectional survey of 226 AA MSM who were 18 years or older and self-reported sex with another male in the prior 90 days. Participants completed an inventory to characterize network members with whom they had conversations about HIV testing and HIV status.

Results: Most of the sample reported that it was important/very important to talk to male friends about HIV (85%) and that they were comfortable/very comfortable talking with their friends about sexual behaviors (84%). However, a small proportion of the social network had been talked to by the participant about HIV testing (14%). Among sexual networks, 58% had been talked to about their HIV status, and this was positively associated with main and casual partner type compared with partners with whom money or drugs were exchanged.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that positive attitudes about communication may be necessary but not sufficient for actual conversations to occur. Designing interventions that increase communication with social networks is warranted.

A study of African American men who have sex with men found that, despite positive attitudes toward communicating about HIV testing, a small proportion had actual conversations with their social networks.

From the *Department of Health, Behavior and Society, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD; and †Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention–Prevention Research Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA.

Acknowledgments: This research was funded through a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (1UR6PS000355) and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (1K01HD061269).

Statement on conflicts of interest: The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Correspondence: Karin Elizabeth Tobin, PhD, Department of Health, Behavior and Society, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 2213 McElderry St, Second Floor, Baltimore, MD 21205. E-mail: ktobin@jhsph.edu.

Received for publication June 21, 2013, and accepted February 3, 2014.

© Copyright 2014 American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association