"Stay strong! keep ya head up! move on! it gets better!!!!": resilience processes in the healthMpowerment online intervention of young black gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men

AIDS Care. 2018 Aug;30(sup5):S27-S38. doi: 10.1080/09540121.2018.1510106. Epub 2019 Jan 11.


Overlapping stigmas related to sexual minority-, race/ethnicity-, and HIV-status pose barriers to HIV prevention and care and the creation of supportive social networks for young, Black, gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM). A risk-based approach to addressing the HIV epidemic focuses on what is lacking and reinforces negative stereotypes about already-marginalized populations. In contrast, a strengths-based approach builds on Black GBMSM's existing strengths, recognizing the remarkable ways in which they are overcoming barriers to HIV prevention and care. HealthMpowerment (HMP) is an online, mobile phone optimized intervention that aimed to reduce condomless anal intercourse and foster community among young Black GBMSM (age 18-30). Applying a resilience framework, we analyzed 322 conversations contributed by 48 HMP participants (22/48 living with HIV) on the intervention website. These conversations provided a unique opportunity to observe and analyze dynamic, interpersonal resilience processes shared in response to stigma, discrimination, and life challenges experienced by young Black GBMSM. We utilized an existing framework with four resilience processes and identified new subthemes that were displayed in these online interactions: (1) Exchanging social support occurred through sharing emotional and informational support. (2) Engaging in health-promoting cognitive processes appeared as reframing, self-acceptance, endorsing a positive outlook, and agency and taking responsibility for outcomes. (3) Enacting healthy behavioral practices clustered into modeling sex-positive norms, reducing the risk of acquiring or transmitting HIV, and living well with HIV. (4) Finally, empowering other gay and bisexual youth occurred through role modeling, promoting self-advocacy, and providing encouragement. Future online interventions could advance strengths-based approaches within HIV prevention and care by intentionally building on Black GBMSM's existing resilience processes. The accessibility and anonymity of online spaces may provide a particularly powerful intervention modality for amplifying resilience among young Black GBMSM.

Keywords: African American; Black; Resilience; empowerment; men who have sex with men (MSM); stigma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Black or African American / psychology*
  • HIV Infections / psychology*
  • Homosexuality, Male / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities / psychology*
  • United States
  • Young Adult