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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Brown: Designing a Sexual Network Study of Men Who Have Sex with Other Men

Black and Latino gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) have higher rates of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) than their White counterparts. Differences in sexual networks have been hypothesized to play an important role in the observed racial/ethnic disparities in risk. However, concerns about the acceptability and feasibility of conducting sociocentric sexual network studies have left a dearth of data on the structure of sexual networks of MSM. If certain network research procedures are unacceptable among target populations, biases may be introduced. In this study by Dr. Katie Biello, Assistant Professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences (Research) and Epidemiology (Research), qualitative interviews and brief surveys were conducted with 30 self-identified Black, Hispanic/Latino, and White sexually active MSM in the Greater Boston area to assess the acceptability and feasibility of potential procedures for a sociocentric sexual network study.

Katie Biello

[Photo: Dr. Katie Biello]

The study found that referring recent sexual partners as part of a sociocentric network study was generally acceptable, but racial/ethnic differences emerged regarding specific preferences for how to recruit sexual partners. While the majority of Black participants explained they would not want their name disclosed to sexual partners approached for study participation, most Latino participants preferred having the opportunity to inform referrals themselves about the study prior to researchers contacting them, and White participants favored having researchers disclose their names when recruiting referrals, emphasizing the importance of transparency. Therefore, in order to reduce differential rates of research participation, increase scientific validity, and reduce risks of social harm, researchers studying sexual networks among MSM should be aware of these potential differences, engage communities in study design, and provide participants with a variety of options for recruiting their sexual partners.

Study published June 2016 in AIDS Care

To read more: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09540121.2016.1198748