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The Role of Gay-Related Stigma in HIV-Risk Behavior Among Sexual Minority Men in Europe

  • Corina Leluţiu-Weinberger
  • H. Jonathon Rendina
  • Massimo Mirandola
  • Lorenzo Gios
  • Cinta Folch
  • Alexandru Rafila
  • John E. Pachankis
Original Paper

Abstract

Sexual orientation stigma stems from discriminatory social contexts and may ultimately impact the behavioral health of stigmatized individuals through stress-related pathways. Sexual minority stigma is of particular concern in Europe given the diversity of social contexts on the continent and sexual minority men’s rapidly increasing risk of HIV infection, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, potentially rooted in stigma. This study assesses whether stigma in the ubiquitous social contexts surrounding sexual minority men (e.g., family, workplace, government) may place them at higher risk for HIV contraction across six countries. We utilized a large cross-sectional survey sample of HIV-negative sexual minority men (N = 2087; mean age = 31.6, SD = 9.7) from six European countries to test whether those who reported sexual orientation stigma also engaged in more HIV risk-related behaviors, including condomless sex with casual partners (in the absence of PrEP) and substance use before and during sex. Regression analyses were performed in Mplus. We found that a one standard deviation increase in reported sexual orientation stigma was significantly associated with the following during the last sexual encounter: a 19% increase in odds of sex under the influence of alcohol, 27% increase in odds of sex under the influence of cannabis, 49% increase in odds of sex under the influence of illicit drugs, an 11% increase in odds of condomless sex with casual partners in the past 6 months, and a 26% increase in odds of knowing where to receive an HIV test. Sexual minority men who reported perceiving greater sexual orientation-related stigma within their ubiquitous social contexts were significantly more likely to report sexual risk and alcohol and drug use during their last sexual encounter, yet reported more knowledge of preventive services. Contextual stigma might serve as a precursor to behavioral risks of HIV infection, generating maladaptive stress responses capable of being modified through individually-focused interventions. Structural interventions are also needed to ultimately reduce stigma at its source.

Keywords

Sexual minority men HIV risk Sexual orientation-related stigma Drug use Alcohol use 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We gratefully acknowledge all the participants and project staff who have dedicated their time to this research.

Funding

This article is based on the findings from the SIALON project, co-funded by the European Commission under the Public Health Programme 2003–2008 (GA 2007309). The sole responsibility lies with the author of the publication, and the Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Research Involving Human Subjects

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. Study protocols were approved by each study site’s ethics committee, and are in compliance with the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki for ethical principles for conducting research with human subjects.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, School of Nursing and François-Xavier Bagnoud Center, RutgersState University of New JerseyNewarkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychology and the Center for HIV Educational Studies and Training (CHEST), Hunter CollegeCity University of New YorkNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Health Psychology and Clinical Science Doctoral ProgramThe Graduate Center of the City University of New YorkNew YorkUSA
  4. 4.Infectious Diseases Section, Department of Diagnostics and Public HealthUniversity of VeronaVeronaItaly
  5. 5.Veneto Region - Department of HealthCReMPE – Regional Coordination Centre for European Project Management, the Verona University HospitalVeronaItaly
  6. 6.Departament de SalutCenter Estudis Epidemiològics sobre les Infections de Transmissió Sexual i Sida de Catalunya (CEEISCAT), Generalitat de CatalunyaBarcelonaSpain
  7. 7.CIBER Epidemiologia y Salud Pública (CIBERESP)BarcelonaSpain
  8. 8.Universitatea de Medicină şi Farmacie “Carol Davila”BucureştiRomânia
  9. 9.Institutul Naţional de Boli Infecţioase “Prof. Dr. Matei Balş”BucureştiRomânia
  10. 10.Department of Social and Behavioral SciencesYale School of Public HealthNew HavenUSA

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