Background Young Black men who have sex with men (MSM) are disproportionately affected by HIV and STIs in North Carolina (NC). Behavior and STI prevalence in the sexual network affect transmission risk; network position may be a marker for risk.
Methods We constructed the local sexual network from reportable HIV and syphilis cases diagnosed among Black men age 15–30 in north central NC from 2006–2009 (N = 1100); infected and uninfected contacts were included in the network. Bonacich power is an unbounded measure of network centrality derived from the number of contacts and number of contacts’ contacts. Higher Bonacich scores represent increased centrality in the network, while accounting for the centrality of an individual’s contacts. It is iterative, giving more weight to closer contacts. To assess the centrality of college status in the network, Bonacich scores and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) were calculated for all college-age Black men (17–24 years) (n = 385). We computed t-tests and chi-square tests to measure score differences by college status for factors associated with HIV infection risk.
Results Bonacich scores were normally distributed (range –57.5–62.2). Mean score was higher for college than non-college men (5.86 (95% CI: 4.69–7.04) v. 3.13 (95% CI: 2.51–3.76), P < 0.0001). College men were more likely to use dating sites and less likely to use marijuana than non-college men. Sexual orientation also differed significantly by college status: while the proportion of MSM was ∼70%, college men were more likely to be bisexual (24% v. 11%) and less likely to be heterosexual (7% v. 22%) compared to non-college men. College status was not associated with diagnosis, STI history, alcohol use, or having anonymous partners.
Conclusion Young African-American college men are more central in this sexual network than young African-American men who are not in college, putting them at risk for HIV acquisition and transmission.
- sexual networks
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