Social Perceptions Matter: Exploring Factors that Influence Perceived Community HIV/AIDS Stigma amongst Black, White, and Hispanic Men Who Have Sex with Men

Victoria Hoverman

Major Professor: Shannon N Davis, PhD, Mason Korea

Committee Members: Courtney Hughes-Rinker, Catherine Gallagher

Commerce Building II, #3006
April 28, 2017, 10:00 AM to 07:00 AM


HIV/AIDS continues to affect men who have sex with men (MSM) more so than any other group in the United States.  Though HIV/AIDS is no longer viewed as a “death sentence” due to advances in treatment and care, HIV/AIDS stigma continues to be one of the largest barriers to achieving an HIV-free generation in the U.S.  To further complicate the matter, MSM tend to be treated as a homogenous group, which leads to Black and Hispanic MSM to be disproportionately affected by and vulnerable to HIV infection.  This dissertation aimed to examine how satisfaction with social support, self-acceptance, ever been tested for HIV, perceived community attitudes towards gay men, personal HIV/AIDS stigma, and HIV knowledge influenced perceived community HIV/AIDS stigma amongst Black, White, and Hispanic MSM, in the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area.  Data for this study was collected through a web-based self-report survey in November of 2015.  A total of 472 MSM respondents (27% Black, 28% Hispanic, and 45% White), in and around Washington, DC participated.  Path analysis was used to explore the relationships between the six predictor variables and the outcome variable of perceived community HIV/AIDS stigma.  Results from the full sample showed all pathways from the predictor variables to perceived community HIV/AIDS stigma were statistically significant.  More interestingly though, when path analyses were conducted for Black, Hispanic, and White MSM separately, the relationships between the predictor variables and perceived community HIV/AIDS stigma became more nuanced.  Some of the pathways were similar in directionality and significance across racial/ethnic groups, some differed, and there were some instances where new pathways unique to only one or two of the groups emerged.  The findings of this research provide evidence that MSM are not a homogenous group, and intersecting identities matter in understanding perceived community HIV/AIDS stigma.  This study concludes with recommendations for researchers, healthcare providers, and public health program developers to create comprehensive and culturally appropriate approaches to HIV/AIDS reduction that begin with a focus on the underlying social factors that perpetuate HIV (i.e. homophobia, personal HIV/AIDS stigma, and community HIV/AIDS stigma).  Without this focus, MSM will likely not utilize available HIV testing and healthcare resources out of the fear of persecution and/or ostracism, thus perpetuating the HIV epidemic.