ATLANTA – An international team of researchers, including a scientist at Georgia State University, found that black men who have sex with men (MSM) are more likely to have HIV than other MSM, and that social inequalities play a major role.
Examining data from nearly 200 studies in the U.S., the United Kingdom and Canada, the researchers found that stigma, poverty and inadequate access to health care were major factors in the disparities. The term "MSM" was used in the study, as some men who have sex with men do not identify with the terms gay or bisexual.
The results were published in the July 28 edition of The Lancet. The lead researcher was Gregorio A. Millett of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"It is complex, but clearly the point to be made is that we need to address these disparities by reducing stigma towards black MSM in each of these countries, and it will vary depending on the country," said coauthor John Peterson, professor of psychology at Georgia State.
In the meta-analysis, HIV-diagnosed black MSM in the U.K. and the U.S. are less likely than other HIV-diagnosed MSM to be taking lifesaving HIV medications.
Additionally, compared to other MSM, black MSM are 3.5 times more likely to have a lower education, twice as likely to have a low income (less than $20,000) or to ever be incarcerated and 1.5 times more likely to be unemployed.
Stigma exists not only among the general public, but also in health care settings, Peterson explained.
"Even if men are tested for HIV, if given the fact that they are poor, they may be less likely to have access to health care," he continued. "And even if they have access to care, the stigma the men face by health care providers has to be reduced."