The Mary Renault Society

The Triangle Area of North Carolina

Conducting HIV Research with Black Men Who Have Sex with Men: Social Justice as a Necessary Component of Scientific Validity

Dr. Derrick MatthewsThis presentation looks at the historical trajectory of the HIV epidemic as a starting point to understand today’s crisis among black men who have sex with men (MSM). The scientific response to HIV in the 1980s and 90s was unique in how it was shaped so directly by powerful community advocacy. Recently there have been efforts to highlight the importance of community in research by retelling this story in popular media and scientific literature. Nevertheless, while we have made strides at understanding the importance of advocacy in the past, we fail to recognize how a need to infuse a contemporary social justice influences the HIV research paradigm today. Despite bearing the largest burden of HIV infection, black MSM are frequently targets, not partners or leaders, of HIV research, which inevitably has tangible effects for intervention and policy development. The analysis of sexual networks provides an illustrative example of how these problematic conclusions arise when we memorialize the past but fail to apply its lessons.

Our presenter, Dr. Derrick Matthews, received a BA in English from Rice University in Houston, TX; an MPH from the University of Michigan; and a PhD in Health Behavior from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2013. He now serves as an assistant professor in the Department of Health Behavior at the UNC-CH Gillings School of Global Public Health. His research explores how social determinants of health facilitate the large disparities in HIV prevention and treatment experienced by black men who have sex with men (MSM). His focus is on engaging black MSM communities in all stages of the research process, from descriptive epidemiology to intervention development. His research agenda also explores the numerous health inequities experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) populations. His work in this area currently focuses on ways to thoughtfully operationalize intersectional discrimination and its effects on health in quantitative research.


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