Pieces Sought in Black/hiv Puzzle Pitt, Advocates Land $3.2M Grant to Help Solve Epidemic among African-American Gay Men

Article excerpt

African-American men who have sex with other men typically are more conservative in sexual behavior than gay men in general. So why are they far more likely to contract HIV/AIDS?

"Generally, they take far fewer risks than white guys. They are much more conservative than gay men in general. But it's a 30-year- long epidemiological puzzle," said Ron Stall, in the department of behavioral and community health sciences at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. "Where's all the virus coming from? If you can't answer that question, you can't do HIV prevention."

The graduate school and the Center for Black Equity in Washington, D.C., now hope to answer that question.

They've landed a $3.2 million grant through the National Institute of Nursing Research at the National Institutes of Health to answer the question and help put the brakes on the national epidemic of human immunodeficiency virus and the deadly disease that HIV causes -- acquired immune deficiency syndrome, known as AIDS.

The research team plans to survey nearly 6,000 African-American men who attend annual Black Gay Pride events in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., which draw about 300,000 participants annually.

"We will bring the community, and Pitt will bring the science," said Earl Fowlkes, president and CEO of CBE. "We hope to get answers to help both institutions and all of society. This is the most important thing we've done in the history of our organization."

The study will create the largest sample of HIV-related data ever collected from African-American men who have sex with other men (MSM), "and that will yield important data about the health and well- being of our community," Mr. Fowlkes said.

In minority communities, MSM is preferable to the term gay.

During the five-year study, gay African-American men will complete surveys anonymously to identify what prevents or encourages them to receive HIV testing and care, including the impact of family, community and religion on their decision-making, he said.

The study also will investigate other factors important to the overall health of African-American MSM, including depression, substance use, violence, victimization and other health problems. Their answers will determine what factors to target in convincing them to follow safe practices and to seek testing and treatment. …


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