I argued in a previous post that public health should look at factors impacting health using a multi-level approach. In this post, I attempt to outline the various multi-level barriers to medical care (specifically access to PrEP, HIV prevention, and AIDS care) for black queer men (or black men who have sex with men). This post focuses on structural barriers, but the micro and meso level analyses are also available.
At the structural level, queer men, especially those who are men of color, poor, disabled, or uneducated, face stigma, low health literacy, discrimination, incarceration, poverty, and a general lack of access to healthcare all of which impact their ability to gain access to PrEP and other prevention measures and to continue their treatment and care (Levy et al., 2014; Philbin et al., 2016; Rucker et al., 2017; Thomann et al., 2017). Stigma continues to stand out as a huge structural barrier, especially with respect to access to PrEP or anything related to HIV or sexual health. HIV can often still be considered a “gay men’s disease” or something that only slut and whores have to worry about; these notions continue even from the medical institution, which also continues to emphasize the idea of “Truvada Whores”—the idea that queer men take PrEP in order to participate in riskier sexual behaviors rather than to decrease their risk of contracting HIV (Calabrese et al., 2017; Calabrese & Underhill, 2015). Some providers and researchers have gone so far as to recommend PrEP for everyone; however, we must remember to target PrEP to individuals who are at risk of contracting the disease rather than encouraging everyone to take it even if they are incredibly unlikely to contact HIV (Calabrese, Underhill, et al., 2016). Of course, there are heterosexual individuals who are at risk of contracting HIV, who should likely be taking PrEP, though it has primarily been targeted towards gay men (in sometimes insensitive advertisements that increase stigma for the queer community), but there are also people who don’t have enough risk factors to warrant the medication.
Calabrese, S. K., Magnus, M., Mayer, K. H., Krakower, D. S., Eldahan, A. I., Hawkins, L. A. G., . . . Dovidio, J. F. (2017). “Support Your Client at the Space That They’re in”: HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) Prescribers’ Perspectives on PrEP-Related Risk Compensation. AIDS Patient Care STDS, 31(4), 196-204. doi:10.1089/apc.2017.0002
Calabrese, S. K., & Underhill, K. (2015). How Stigma Surrounding the Use of HIV Preexposure Prophylaxis Undermines Prevention and Pleasure: A Call to Destigmatize “Truvada Whores”. Am J Public Health, 105(10), 1960-1964. doi:10.2105/ajph.2015.302816
Calabrese, S. K., Underhill, K., Earnshaw, V. A., Hansen, N. B., Kershaw, T. S., Magnus, M., . . . Dovidio, J. F. (2016). Framing HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for the General Public: How Inclusive Messaging May Prevent Prejudice from Diminishing Public Support. AIDS Behav, 20(7), 1499-1513. doi:10.1007/s10461-016-1318-9
Levy, M. E., Wilton, L., Phillips, G., Glick, S. N., Kuo, I., Brewer, R. A., . . . Magnus, M. (2014). Understanding Structural Barriers to Accessing HIV Testing and Prevention Services Among Black Men Who Have Sex with Men (BMSM) in the United States. AIDS Behav, 18(5), 972-996. doi:10.1007/s10461-014-0719-x
Philbin, M. M., Parker, C. M., Parker, R. G., Wilson, P. A., Garcia, J., & Hirsch, J. S. (2016). The Promise of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis for Black Men Who Have Sex with Men: An Ecological Approach to Attitudes, Beliefs, and Barriers. AIDS Patient Care and STDs, 30(6), 282-290. doi:10.1089/apc.2016.0037
Rucker, A. J., Murray, A., Gaul, Z., Sutton, M. Y., & Wilson, P. A. (2017). The role of patient-provider sexual health communication in understanding the uptake of HIV prevention services among Black men who have sex with men. Cult Health Sex, 1-11. doi:10.1080/13691058.2017.1375156
Thomann, M., Grosso, A., Zapata, R., & Chiasson, M. A. (2017). ‘WTF is PrEP?’: attitudes towards pre-exposure prophylaxis among men who have sex with men and transgender women in New York City. Cult Health Sex, 1-15. doi:10.1080/13691058.2017.1380230