The Impact of Religiosity on the Mental and Sexual Health of African American Men who Have Sex with Men in the Deep South

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While the disproportionate rates of HIV infection among African American men who have sex with men (AAMSM) have been well-documented, less is known about the psychosocial factors that may influence their risk. Religiosity has been shown to play a significant role in the lives and health of African Americans, but its role in the mental and sexual health of AAMSM has not been widely investigated. This study investigated the relationships between religiosity, internalized homonegativity, and sexual behavior among AAMSM living in the Deep South region of the U.S. Participants in the Sexual Health in Faith Traditions (SHIFT) Study (n=348) completed a self-administered, paper-and-pencil survey. The mean age of participants was 28.2, and 21% reported a positive HIV diagnosis. Measures of religiosity included frequency of church attendance, frequency of private religious activity, level of religious commitment, authority afforded scripture, and the religious group’s perceived affirmativeness of homosexuality. Regression analyses revealed that, controlling for sociodemographic factors, both frequency of church attendance (OR=.66) and authority afforded scripture (OR=1.18) were significant predictors of engaging in sex within 3 hours of illegal drug use in the last 3 months, p<.05. Frequency of church attendance (B=2.62, p<.05) and perceived affirmativeness (B=-5.25, p<.01) were also significant predictors of internalized homonegativity. None of the religiosity measures were associated with frequency of condom use or engaging in sex within 3 hours of alcohol consumption. The results of this analysis suggest that certain aspects of religiosity may be associated with engagement in HIV/STI risk behaviors among AAMSM. Future research should explore the nature of these relationships, as well as how African American religious spaces can be mobilized to promote mental and sexual health for AAMSM.


Xavier University of Louisiana Health Disparities Conference (XULA)


New Orleans, LA

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