Childhood sexual abuse among Black men who have sex with men: A cornerstone of a syndemic?

Wu, Elwin

The sequelae of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) includes HIV infection, engagement in HIV risk behaviors, substance misuse, and intimate partner violence (IPV). Although Black men who have sex with men (MSM) are disproportionately infected with HIV in the U.S.—especially in urban locations such as New York City—there is limited research with larger samples of Black MSM of varied HIV status regarding the prevalence of CSA and the potential negative consequence with respect to a “syndemic,” i.e., the co-occurrence of adverse conditions such as HIVrisk, substance misuse, and IPV.

Black MSM (N = 1,002) recruited in New York City from 2009–2015 completed a screening assessment eliciting self-reported data on age, CSA, self-reported HIV status, number of male sexual partners, number of acts of condomless anal intercourse (CAI), substance misuse, and IPV. Hypothesis testing utilized logistic and linear regression models with self-reported data on CSA (independent variable) and indicators of the following syndemic factors: HIV risk, substance misuse, and IPV.

More than one-fourth (28.1%) met criteria for experiencing CSA. CSA was associated with significantly greater odds of being HIV-positive (AOR = 1.5; 95% CI = 1.1–2.0); number of male sexual partners (b = 2.0, SE = 0.5, p = .002) and condomless acts of anal intercourse (b = 4.3, SE = 1.6, p = .007); odds of binge drinking (AOR = 1.5; 95% CI = 1.1–2.0) and illicit substance use (AOR = 1.5; 95% CI = 1.1–2.0); and odds of experiencing current IPV (AOR = 1.7; 95% CI = 1.2–2.3). CSA was associated with significantly greater odds of concurrently experiencing 2 or more syndemic factors (AOR = 2.0, 95% CI = 1.4–2.9, p < .001); concurrently experiencing 2 or more syndemic factors was significantly associated with having a riskier HIV status (for being HIV-positive: AOR = 1.5, 95% CI = 1.1–2.1, p = .02; for having an unknown HIV status: AOR = 3.7, 95% CI = 1.9–12.9, p = .04).

Among Black MSM, CSA is a prevalent problem and is a significant antecedent to HIV, substance misuse, and IPV indicators and risk. Addressing CSA may be a valuable approach to remedy the syndemic of HIV, substance misuse, and violence that has burdened MSM, especially Black MSM, in the U.S.


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Social Intervention Group
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February 28, 2019