Chicago African-American Network Health Study
There were few clues about why HIV was so prevalent among young Black men who have sex with men.
Although their behavior has been no riskier than their white counterparts, African-American men who have sex with men (MSWM) have contracted HIV at higher rates—despite the introduction of antiretroviral treatments that are proven to prevent the spread of the disease. To figure out why, researchers proposed studying the knowledge or use of antiretrovirals, known as PrEP, within social networks of young Black MSM on Chicago’s South Side.
A NORC-designed study used a powerful new sampling technique.
Collaborating with researchers at the University of Chicago’s Department of Public Health Sciences, NORC at the University of Chicago employed a powerful new survey technique to collect data about the behavior of more than 600 Black MSM on Chicago’s South Side. The technique, called Respondent-Driven Sampling, relies on survey participants to recruit other candidates from their social networks. This targeted, interconnected approach is more effective than conventional surveys and allows researchers to conduct sustained sampling of difficult-to-reach subgroups.
We conducted three survey waves over nearly two years. Respondents sat for lengthy in-person interviews, gave blood samples, and provided access to their Facebook friends. The data allowed researchers to map the social dynamics of the South Side MSM community, particularly the ballroom houses and independent MSM families that help shape subgroup behavior and sexual norms.
We gained insights into the interrelationship between Black MSM social dynamics and HIV.
Study researchers found that participants who belonged to formal MSM structures, such ballroom houses and independent families, were more likely to know about PrEP. But that knowledge was still limited within the closed subculture, where many potential sex partners have undetected HIV infections.