Nationally, over one-quarter of new HIV infections occur in adolescents and young adults, and the brunt of this
youth epidemic is being borne by young Black men who have sex with men (YBMSM). HIV-positive YBMSM
are additionally at high risk for suboptimal engagement in care, which has implications for individual
morbidity and mortality as well as further transmission within the community. At the same time, prior work
has demonstrated significant resilience and supportive social relationships among HIV-positive YBMSM. The
unique strengths and vulnerabilities of YBMSM must be better understood in order to develop effective
interventions that improve individual and public health outcomes.
This proposal outlines an approach that seeks to integrate community-based participatory research with
clinical research methods in order to understand the relationships between social network characteristics and
engagement in HIV care among YBMSM. Specifically, we will focus on characterizing and augmenting
YBMSM’s social capital, which we define as the sum of actual and potential resources contained in an
individual’s social network. We will first conduct formative research with HIV-positive YBMSM as well as key
informants from the community, to better understand the sources and characteristics of social capital among
YBMSM. Next, with the guidance of a youth community advisory board, we will develop an intervention to
augment social capital among HIV-positive YBMSM by engaging them in group projects aimed at community-
oriented action. Finally, we will pilot test our intervention in a randomized controlled trial and assess its
feasibility and acceptability as well as its impact on social capital and HIV care engagement outcomes.
We are proposing a unique, strengths-based approach to augmenting HIV care engagement among YBMSM,
and we believe that our utilization of community-based participatory methods will lead to the development of
an intervention which is acceptable and sustainable in this population. Such novel strategies for improving
engagement in care among YBMSM are critically needed to promote individual health and well-being, prevent
secondary transmission, and decrease health disparities.