New York Blood Center’s Lindsley F. Kimball Research Institute (LFKRI) Laboratory of Social and Behavioral Sciences has received a three-year, $2 million grant from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) to develop and test an HIV self-testing intervention for young, Black, gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. This groundbreaking study will be led by NYBC’s Social and Behavioral Sciences Laboratory Head, Victoria Frye, MPH, DrPH, and Leo Wilton, PhD, Associate Professor of Human Development at Binghamton University. Beryl Koblin, PhD, Head of NYBC’s Laboratory of Infectious Disease Prevention, is a Co-Investigator.
“Providing a space for young, gay, Black men to learn the skills needed to conduct HIV self-testing correctly, with the support of a friend or buddy, is a potentially empowering approach to self-care for young, gay Black men,” said Frye. “The approach also addresses two concerns around self-testing. The first is around correct operation of the HIV self-test, which can affect the accuracy of the test. The second is around receiving a positive test result alone and unsupported. The intervention is designed to address these concerns while promoting consistent self-testing and encouraging young people to take control of their sexual health and well-being.”
“This innovative and culturally grounded HIV prevention intervention will address the critical, multi-layered complexities of the lives of young Black men who have sex with men related to the interface of HIV testing, stigma and marginalization,” noted Wilton.
Increasing HIV testing rates among young, Black men who have sex with men (MSM) is critical to reducing the disproportionate disease burden in the Black community. The study will test an intervention to increase consistent HIV self-testing among young, Black MSM, using a culturally-grounded and empowerment-based “buddy system” approach. During the brief intervention, trained peer educators support pairs of “buddies” in acquiring the knowledge and skills and motivation needed to correctly operate the HIV self-test, initiate and maintain consistent HIV self-testing (defined as every three months), and support their buddy’s self-testing and sexual and alcohol and drug use risk reduction plans.
New York City is the metropolitan area in the United States with the largest number of newly diagnosed HIV infections among MSM. Between 2001 and 2010, new HIV diagnoses of HIV increased among young MSM, with about half of all new cases among Black MSM. By identifying undiagnosed HIV infection, young, Black MSM living with HIV may be linked to HIV medical care, increasing access to antiretroviral therapy that suppresses the virus and stops progression of HIV disease, and social care that promote health and well-being.