In black men who have sex with men (BMSM) in the United States, the increased presence of social network support can help protect against HIV acquisition, according to results published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
Further studies should focus on determining what processes link social network support with risk behaviors as a way to inform HIV prevention efforts.
The study included data from the BROTHERS study, which examined a multicomponent intervention for BMSM in 6 U.S. cities. The researchers used Cox regression analyses to determine associations between time-dependent measures of network support and time to HIV seroconversion.
At baseline, 1000 BMSM tested negative for HIV. During the follow-up period of 1 year, 28 participants seroconverted.
The researchers used adjusted hazard ratio models to determine that participants who did not undergo seroconversion had a higher percentage of social network members who provided personal/emotional support (adjust hazard ratio [aHR], 0.92; 95% CI, 0.85 to 0.99), medical support (aHR, 0.92; 95% CI, 0.85 to 0.99]), or social participation support (aHR, 0.91; 95% CI, 0.86 to 0.97).
“Although this study did not explore the mechanisms that may contribute to this protective relationship, previous studies have found that social support has positive benefits for health by affecting a person’s coping mechanisms or increasing his engagement in health-promoting behaviors,” the researchers wrote.
Hermanstyne KA, Green HD Jr, Cook R, et al. Social network support and decreased risk of seroconversion in black MSM: results of the BROTHERS (HPTN 061) study. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2018;78:163-168.