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Collective Avoidance of Social and Health Venues and HIV Racial Inequities: Network Modeling of Venue Avoidance on Venue Affiliation, Social Networks, and HIV Risk

Posted on 2020-02-25 - 13:08

Many younger Black men who have sex with men (YBMSM) are exposed to homonegativity, societal stigma, and racial discrimination in their social environment. This study uses a social network modeling methodology to identify aspects of the social environment that are not often described, that is, the places and spaces or “venues” where YBMSM socialize or where they receive HIV prevention services. In particular, we identify the structural features of avoidance of these venues as an indicator of negative experiences, using bipartite exponential random graph models. Our study theorizes that YBMSM avoid certain venues en masse through information diffusion among social network members. We specify two social mechanisms of collective venue avoidance—(1) homophily (i.e., ego–alter similarity in venue avoidance) and (2) popular opinion leaders (as early adopters)—and test the corresponding hypotheses that (Hypothesis 1) socially connected individuals avoid venues together and that (Hypothesis 2) popular individuals would be more likely to avoid venues. Based on data collected from YBMSM aged 16 to 29 years between 2014 and 2016 in Houston, Texas (N = 227) and Chicago, Illinois (N = 241), results indicate that Hypothesis 1 was supported in both cities but that Hypothesis 2 was supported only in Chicago. The findings suggest that the structural patterns of venue avoidance are different between cities and may inform dissemination of prevention messages and delivery of venue- and social influence–based HIV interventions.

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