CAHSS Faculty Articles


Substance Use and Sexual Risk Mediated by Social Support among Black Men


Department of Family Therapy

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Journal of Community Health





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Health and social disparities are widespread among men who have sex with men (MSM). Although literature indicates that Black MSM (BMSM) are no more likely than other MSM to report sexual risk behaviors, such as unprotected anal intercourse, studies have reported that buying and trading sex appear to be important risk factors for BMSM. Substance use generally is not significantly greater among BMSM than other MSM, studies have found that BMSM report more powder and crack cocaine use than other MSM. The lack of adequate coping skills and social support for BMSM has also been documented. This paper examines differences in substance use, sexual risk behaviors and social support among Black and non-black MSM, in a sample of 515 men participating in a randomized intervention trial. BMSM reported higher rates of substance dependence (72.2 vs. 59.5%, P = .015) and buying sex (49.1 vs. 17.4%, P < .000) than non-Black MSM. BMSM also reported lower levels of social support than other MSM on all measures included in the study; e.g., getting help and emotional support from others (38.0 vs. 52.8%, P < .006). Mediation analyses showed that BMSM's higher rates of substance dependence and buying sex are partially mediated by lower levels of social support. Our data appear to show that lack of social support is an important influence on risk behaviors among BMSM. Qualitative data also supported these findings. Sexual risk and substance use prevention interventions should address BMSM's capacity to build adequate and supportive relationships.



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