243246 What Do Women Think of Being Involved with Men Who Have Sex with Both Men and Women (MSMW)?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011: 11:10 AM

Lakshmi Goparaju, PhD , Department of Medicine, Georgetown University, Washington, DC
Lari L. Warren-Jeanpiere, PhD , Department of Medicine, Georgetown University, Washington, DC
Background: Thus far, HIV research has focused on men who have sex with men (MSM) and women (MSMW) but very little is known about women's perspectives on relationships with MSMW. The black community and the media refer to MSMW secretive behavior as “being on the down low”, or “DL”. Although not proven as a cause for HIV spread among women, DL has been a concern for women. This research explores women's knowledge, attitudes and beliefs on the DL phenomenon, their concerns and coping strategies.

Methods: We conducted 6 focus groups discussions with 42 African American women. Moderated by the PI, recorded and transcribed verbatim and analyzed using NVivo. Each discussion focused on topics of knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, signs, concerns, what they would do if their partners are on DL, and safety negotiation.

Results: Participants expressed concern about lack of disclosure in the DL phenomenon. They believe that African American men are less likely to come out regarding their gay or bisexual behaviors due to expectations of black male sexuality, attitudes of black church and community, and widespread incarcerations. Women expressed hurt, shame and deception when faced with their partner's DL behavior and often perceived it as their personal failure.

Conclusion: When same sex behaviors are not acknowledged by the larger society, that leaves the people involved, in this case the women, without access to necessary information, services and social / cultural support. Thus homophobia affects not only the gay men but their female partners and the society in general.

Learning Areas:
Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Diversity and culture
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe women's perspectives on being partners of men who have sex with men and women (MSMW). Identify information and services needed by women who are / could be potential partners of MSMW.

Keywords: Prevention, Homophobia

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the principal investigator
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.