The Role of Geographic and Network Factors in Racial Disparities in HIV Among Young Men Who have Sex with Men: An Egocentric Network Study

Brian Mustanski*, Michelle Birkett, Lisa M. Kuhns, Carl A. Latkin, Stephen Q. Muth

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

46 Scopus citations


The objective of this study was to characterize and compare individual and sexual network characteristics of Black, White, and Latino young men who have sex with men (YMSM) as potential drivers of racial disparities in HIV. Egocentric network interviews were conducted with 175 diverse YMSM who described 837 sex partners within 167 sexual-active egos. Sexual partner alter attributes were summarized by ego. Descriptives of ego demographics, sexual partner demographics, and network characteristics were calculated by race of the ego and compared. No racial differences were found in individual engagement in HIV risk behaviors or concurrent sexual partnership. Racial differences were found in partner characteristics, including female gender, non-gay sexual orientations, older age, and residence in a high HIV prevalence neighborhood. Racial differences in relationship characteristics included type of relationships (i.e., main partner) and strength of relationships. Network characteristics also showed differences, including sexual network density and assortativity by race. Most racial differences were in the direction of effects that would tend to increase HIV incidence among Black YMSM. These data suggest that racial disparities in HIV may be driven and/or maintained by a combination of racial differences in partner characteristics, assortativity by race, and increased sexual network density, rather than differences in individual’s HIV risk behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1037-1047
Number of pages11
JournalAIDS and behavior
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 22 2015



  • HIV seroprevalence
  • Homosexuality, male
  • Minority health
  • Social networking
  • Young adult

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases

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