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J Urban Health. 2005 Mar;82(1 Suppl 1):i26-34. Epub 2005 Feb 28.

Sexual diversity among black men who have sex with men in an inner-city community.

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Department of Epidemiology, MSPH/Columbia University, 722 West 168th Street, New York, NY 10032, USA.


Dramatic increases in HIV-incidence rates have been documented for Black men who have sex with men (MSM). Moreover, MSM has become a more visible HIV-transmission route in the Black community, in part due to public interest in the "down low" (i.e., "straight" men who also have sex with men). Interviews were conducted with 21 Black MSM in central Brooklyn, New York City, in efforts to understand the diversity of MSM experience in a low income, high HIV-prevalence community. Two thirds of the men identified as either heterosexual (43%) or bisexual (24%) and 15 (71%) MSM reported recent sex with women. Conformity to masculine social role expectations made it difficult to identify sex partners in the community; therefore, men relied on private sex clubs and the Internet. The findings suggest that stigma surrounding both HIV and homosexuality may effectively insure that nonheterosexual preferences and practices remain hidden in the Black community. A focus on sexual orientation and bisexuality has obscured the issue of race in the HIV/AIDS epidemic among Black MSM. In the long term, public health promotion and HIV prevention will require greater tolerance and acceptance of sexual diversity in the Black community.

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