April 12, 2012
HIV/AIDS researchers, service providers, advocates, and others came together March 28 at the University of Chicago for a conversation on connecting HIV/AIDS research and black men who have sex with men (MSM). The summit was part of a series of dialogues presented by the Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus.
"Black MSM are an at-risk group we know has negative outcomes [with HIV contraction]. We need to see how we can intervene and prevent that," said presenter Dr. Kimberly Y. Smith, a Rush University Medical Center associate professor.
Smith suggested that the popular focus on the secret gay lives of "down low" men perpetuates the mistaken belief that certain characteristics might identify an infected partner. "We should be teaching women that anyone they have sex with can infect them, puts them at risk," she said.
Dr. John Schneider, University of Chicago assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology, presented research showing similar rates of condom and substance use in different races of MSM, even though the HIV infection rate among Chicago's black MSM is almost seven times that of white and Latino MSM.
Schneider's social networks research suggests that in the black MSM community, someone at high risk of HIV infection is much more likely to cross paths with someone at low risk, leading Schneider to propose network or venue alerts when someone tests positive.
Dexter Voisin, of the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, presented findings that black HIV-positive MSM are less prone to status disclosure than white MSM, which he attributed to stigma and "astounding, alarming" levels of community misinformation.
The dialogue was sponsored by the US Department of Health and Human Services and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, among others.