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The Multiplex Social Environments of Young Black Men Who Have Sex with Men: How Online and Offline Social Structures Impact HIV Prevention and Sex Behavior Engagement

Authors
  • Young, Lindsay E.1, 2
  • Fujimoto, Kayo3
  • Alon, Leigh1, 2
  • Zhang, Liang4
  • Schneider, John A.1, 2, 5
  • 1 Chicago Center for HIV Elimination, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
  • 2 Department of Medicine, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
  • 3 Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research, School of Public Health, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Houston, TX
  • 4 Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
  • 5 Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Type
Published Article
Journal
Journal of Social Structure
Publisher
Exeley Inc.
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2019
Volume
20
Issue
3
Pages
70–95
Identifiers
DOI: 10.21307/joss-2019-007
Source
Exeley
License
Green

Abstract

In the United States, young Black men who have sex with men (YBMSM) remain disproportionately affected by HIV. The social networks in which YBMSM are embedded are generally understood to be critical factors in understanding their vulnerability. In this study, we acknowledge the relational richness of YBMSMs’ social environments (what we define as multiplexity) and their increasing prioritization of online social networking sites (SNS). Specifically, we investigate whether protective and/or risky features of YBMSMs’ Facebook friendships and group affiliations are related to their HIV prevention and sex behavior engagement, while also accounting for features of their offline confidant (or support) and sex networks. Using data from a population-based cohort study of YBMSM living in Chicago (N=268), we perform a series of multiple logistic regression analyses to examine associations between features of YBMSMs’ Facebook, confidant, and sexual networks with three prevention outcomes and three sex behavior outcomes, while also controlling for factors at the individual and structural levels. Results show that network features play a more significant role in predicting engagement in sex behaviors than prevention behaviors. Specifically, having more confidants, having confidants who are family members, meeting sex partners online, having more YBMSM Facebook friends, belonging to Facebook groups with an LGBTQ focus, and having greater subject diversity in one’s Facebook group affiliations were significantly associated with one or more sex behavior outcomes. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of our findings for HIV prevention intervention efforts.

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