Incarceration Impacts HIV Risk Among Black Queer Men


Black people and LGBTQI+ people are more likely to be incarcerated than the general public, with everything from the prosecution process to the actual time served filled with abuse, violence, and threats of many kinds. So when the two identities intersect, the criminal justice system becomes even worse for the marginalized group.

In a new study, The Graduate Center PhD student Joseph Carter (also of Hunter College) looks at an understudied part of the criminal justice system: its impact on HIV risk and PrEP willingness among Black sexual minority men. The study, “Intersectional Social Control,” is published in Social Science & Medicine and Professor H. Jonathon Rendina (of Hunter and The Graduate Center) is also an author on the study.

“The large, overarching implication of the study is that when we’re looking at incarceration and police discrimination, we must look at it through a lens of intersectionality,” Carter explains. “If we just look at Black men in general, we’d miss some of these associations. The association of police discrimination and psychological distress, and the association between incarceration and HIV-related sexual behavior outcomes. In our sample, these associations are unique to Black sexual health minority men.”

The researchers used a data set of over 1,000 Black sexual minority men and determined that incarceration and criminalization put this population at increased risk of HIV, affects their willingness to use PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis), and is associated with psychological distress. With that, the authors described mass incarceration as a “public health emergency” for Black sexual minority men.

When people think of police discrimination and incarceration, they usually look at individual-level outcomes. People see police discrimination and incarceration linked with police brutality, or police killing unarmed Black men,” Carter says. “But there’s also a larger structural effect that’s a little more invisible. That’s the effect of police discrimination and incarceration experiences, how those impact both psychological and physical health outcomes of Black sexual minority men.”

Carter says that fixing this issue would require large structural change, even as groups are thinking deeply about these issues at the community level.

He concludes: “The next step for this kind of study is to look at the unique experiences that Black trans women have when it comes to the effects of the carceral state — both from a public health and psychological perspective.”

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Intersectional Social Control
Social Science & Medicine, 2020

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Joseph Carter (PhD Student, Psychology) | Profile 1