Among the estimated 56 000 new yearly infections of HIV in the USA, 51% are among African Americans. This demonstrates a disproportionate burden of HIV infection as African Americans make up approximately 12% of the population. One group warranting attention in North Carolina has been African American male college students. Between 2000 and 2003, 11% of new HIV infections among men ages 18–30 were enrolled in college at the time of their diagnosis, with 87% of those college students being African American. Another examination of HIV transmission among men ages 18–30 in North Carolina revealed that 15% of the men reported sexual contact with both men and women in the year prior to their diagnosis, and that these individuals were more likely than men who exclusively have sex with men to be African American and enrolled in college. Sexual identity is a complex and multidimensional construct, many factors of which have yet to be sufficiently explored in the context of the sexual transmission in the HIV epidemic. This is particularly true for heterosexual men and men who have sex with both men and women, as the work that has concerned sexual identity has often ignored these two groups. This neglect may stem from the fact that sexual identity development has often been inappropriately conflated to claiming a minority sexual orientation. As a part of an attempt to more fully understand the role that sexual identity may play in the lives of African American men, we interviewed African American male college students within a historically Black college and university (HBCU) in North Carolina. Our aim was to address a gap in the literature by exploring what shapes sexual identity and its development among African American men. This could potentially lead to future research that could explain sexual behaviour within the context of the HIV epidemic for this population. Interviews were used to assess experiences, attitudes, and beliefs about sexual identity development and sexual activity held by African American male college students. A total of 31 African American male students took part in this investigation that occurred at a HBCU in the central Piedmont region of North Carolina, located in one of the largest cities within the state. Researchers developed interview questions based on The Measure of Sexual Identity Exploration and commitment (MoSIEC) survey instrument. Results from this qualitative exploratory study revealed that the ideas and beliefs about sexuality and sexual identity for African American college males are heavily impacted by their peers and their environment. Males that had influence from an older sibling, cousin, or father about sex reported less sexual partners. Majority of the males reported that it is more acceptable for men to have multiple sex partners, but it is unacceptable for a woman to do the same.
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