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Brief Report

Assessing the Impact of Race on HIV/STI Risk Perceptions Among Young Men Who Have Sex With Men Using an Experimental Approach

Hill, Brandon J. PhD; Rosentel, Kris MSW; Hebert, Luciana PhD

JAIDS Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes: June 1, 2019 - Volume 81 - Issue 2 - p 153–157
doi: 10.1097/QAI.0000000000002004
Prevention Research

Background: This study explores how character race may influence HIV/sexually transmitted infection (STI) risk perceptions of young men who have sex with men (MSM), using a social experimental study design.

Methods: A sample of 134 MSM were recruited to participate in a 30- to 45-minute, in-person laboratory study at 3 Midwest universities. Data were collected from July 2015 to June 2016. Participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 experimental conditions. Each participant read and listened to 9 behaviorally specific vignettes describing sexual encounters between 2 male-identified characters. Vignettes were identical across all conditions with only the race and character name manipulated for condition. Participants were asked to rate the likelihood of HIV/STI transmission for each vignette using a 5-point Likert scale (1 = very unlikely and 5 = very likely).

Results: Across all 9 vignettes, HIV/STI transmission risk was rated significantly higher in vignettes in which both characters were identified as Black compared with vignettes where both characters were White. For 8 of the vignettes, participants rated HIV/STI risk significantly higher among interracial character vignettes compared with vignettes in which both characters were identified as White. Overall, significant differences had medium effect sizes for each statistical comparison (0.065 ≤ η2 ≤ 0.124).

Conclusions: MSM may associate character race with HIV/STI risk even when behaviorally specific information is available. More specifically, MSM may be more likely to associate Black/African American men with higher HIV/STI risk compared with White men, regardless of sexual behavior (eg, oral sex and condomless anal sex) or engagement with HIV/STI prevention strategies (eg, condoms, pre-exposure prophylaxis, and antiretroviral therapy use).

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry and Innovation in Sexual and Reproductive Health, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL.

Correspondence to: Brandon J. Hill, PhD, Planned Parenthood Great Plains, 4401 W. 109th Street, Suite 200, Overland Park, KS 66211 (e-mail:

Supported by the Center for Health Administration Studies at the University of Chicago.

Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality; November 10, 2017; Atlanta, GA; Second Annual Third Coast Center for AIDS Research Symposium; October 2, 2017; Chicago, IL; National LGBTQ Health Conference; April 29, 2017; Chicago, IL; and the Annual Meeting of the Society of Adolescent Health and Medicine; March 9, 2017; New Orleans, LA.

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Received October 04, 2018

Accepted February 04, 2019

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