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Racism, Homophobia Among Barriers To Black Gay & Bisexual Men Seeking HIV Treatment

Adam Ján Figeľ
a health worker doing a finger prick test for HIV. He is drawing blood into a capillary tube after pricking the patient with a lancet.

Research in the Centers for AIDS Intervention at the Medical College of Wisconsin is looking at how racism and homophobia influence HIV prevention efforts among young black gay and bisexual men in Milwaukee — specifically, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) treatment. PrEP is a daily medication taken to prevent HIV.

"Milwaukee actually has a relatively low HIV incidence rate compared to other cities of similar size and demographics, yet one of the challenges that we face is that we see that younger black gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, who we refer to as MSM typically, are disproportionately affected," Dr. Katherine Quinn says. She's one of the researchers in the study, along with Broderick Pearson who's a black gay man.

In Milwaukee, Quinn says over half of the men living with HIV are black, and over 60% of new HIV diagnoses every year are among black individuals. The goal of the study was to understand how intersectional stigma affects PrEP awareness and use among gay, bisexual and MSM ages 16 to 25.

"Just like the disparities that we see in HIV incidents, we see significant racial disparities in use of PrEP. And so, what we were really interested in is why are weeing white men using PrEP and not black men? Particularly these younger black men who we know are at high risk for HIV," Quinna says.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African American gay, bisexual and MSM are more affected by HIV than any other group in the country. In 2018, this group accounted for 26% of new HIV diagnoses in the U.S.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reports that the number of new HIV diagnoses affecting people of color was 66% in 2018, though people of color only made up 18% of the state's population. That same year, the number of new HIV diagnoses for black men was the highest compared to other races and genders at 41.9 per 100,000.

Do you have a question about race in Milwaukee that you'd like WUWM's Teran Powell to explore? Submit it below.


Teran is WUWM's race & ethnicity reporter. <br/>