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Med Anthropol Q. 1997 Dec;11(4):411-47.

Urban low-income African American men, HIV/AIDS, and gender identity.

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  • 1Department of Anthropology, University of Maryland, USA.


In a 1993 Human Organization article, Jerome Wright called for more research on African American male sexual behavior and the risk for HIV infection. The present article is a response to that call. Wright pointed out a well-known fact of HIV/AIDS prevention programs: such programs have not been very successful in reaching low-income African American males. The present article suggests that perhaps the key to better understanding sex-related health-risk behavior is to conduct more systematic research on gender identity, and the historical and sociocultural origins of such identities. I argue that if we are truly interested in developing effective HIV/AIDS programs targeting low-income African American males, then the sociocultural "meanings" that this population attaches to AIDS-related phenomena must be understood in the broader contexts of American constructs of masculinity, and in the real and perceived experiences of black men in America. Data from several ethnographic and qualitative research projects carried out among low-income African American male and female residents of Baltimore, other parts of Maryland, and Washington, D.C. are used in support of my primary arguments.

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