'It's my inner strength': spirituality, religion and HIV in the lives of young African American men who have sex with men.

Published: August 9, 2011

Abstract

Young black men who have sex with men account for 48% of 13-29-year-old HIV-positive men who have sex with men in the USA. It is important to develop an effective HIV prevention approach that is grounded in the context of young men’s lives. Towards this goal, we conducted 31 interviews with 18-30-year-old men who have sex with men in the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Area. This paper examines the roles of religion and spirituality in men who have sex with men’s lives, which is central in the lives of many African Americans. Six prominent themes emerged: (1) childhood participation in formal religious institutions, (2) the continued importance of spirituality among men who have sex with men, (3) homophobia and stigmatisation in traditional black churches, (4) tension between being a man who has sex with men and being a Christian, (5) religion and spirituality’s impact on men’s sense of personal empowerment and coping abilities and (6) treatment of others and building compassion. Findings suggest that integrating spiritual practice into HIV prevention may help programmes be more culturally grounded, thereby attracting more men and resonating with their experiences and values. In addition, faith-based HIV/AIDS ministries that support HIV-positive men who have sex with men may be particularly helpful. Finally, targeting pastors and other church leaders through anti-stigma curricula is crucial.

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