Black men who have sex with men (BMSM) have higher HIV incidence and prevalence when compared with other men who have sex with men, despite similar risk profiles. New prevention technologies, including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), may be effective in responding to these inequalities, provided they are appropriately targeted and acceptable to their intended beneficiaries. This study aims to understand the motivations and barriers of BMSM aged 18–45 to PrEP uptake.
Twenty-five BMSM recruited through geolocation social networking apps took part in in-depth interviews between April and August 2016. Intersectionality theory was used as an organising principle. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using a thematic framework analysis.
For BMSM with heterogeneous social groups, discussions about sexual health were challenging because of the intersection of ethnic background, family history and religion. This limited conversations about PrEP to gay male friends who often held stigmatising views of condomless anal intercourse. BMSM reported exclusion from gay male spaces (online and offline) which could serve to restrict exposure to PrEP messages. Stereotypes of BMSM intersected with negative conceptions of PrEP users, limiting acknowledgement of PrEP candidacy. For those who had attempted to or successfully accessed it, PrEP was framed as a strategy to mitigate risk and to guard against further stigma associated with HIV infection.
BMSM operate within a complex set of circumstances related to the intersection of their sexual, ethnic, cultural and religious identities, which shape PrEP acceptability. Interventions which seek to facilitate uptake in this group must be attentive to these. Health promotion and clinical services could seek to facilitate nuanced discussions about the merits of PrEP for those at frequent risk, perhaps while also providing publicly visible PrEP role models for BMSM and other marginalised groups.