Partner preference among men who have sex with men: Potential contribution to spread of HIV within minority populations

Gregory Phillips*, Michelle Birkett, Sydney Hammond, Brian Mustanski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Purpose: Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disproportionately affects men who have sex with men (MSM) in the United States. Most prior research into drivers of HIV transmission has focused on individual characteristics rather than on dyadic-level behaviors such as sex partner selection. This article explores racial/ethnic preferences in sex and relationship partner selection among MSM to further contextualize the spread of HIV within minority groups. Methods: Participants were recruited through a mobile application (app) for men to meet other men in 2015 and completed an online survey on behaviors related to HIV risk. All analyses on the sample of 530 MSM were conducted in 2015. Results: There was significant homophily in partner selection within racial/ethnic minorities, but not for white MSM. In general, mobile app-using MSM reported a general preference for white and Hispanic men and a dispreference for black and Asian men, both for sex and relationship partners. Conclusion: Racial/ethnic preferences were found to drive intentions to form partnerships within this sample. Combined with the stigma many of these racial/ethnic minorities may also feel from homophobic attitudes within their own racial/ethnic communities, these MSM may be at particular risk for social isolation. These partner preferences likely affect the structure of the sexual networks of MSM and may contribute to increased clustering within high HIV incident sexual networks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-232
Number of pages8
JournalLGBT Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016


  • apps
  • human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • men who have sex with men (MSM)
  • partner preference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Urology


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