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Police discrimination and HIV risk among Black and Latino Gay and Bisexual Adolescent Boys

Fri, March 22, 7:45 to 9:15am, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 1, Exhibit Hall B

Integrative Statement

Background: Although recent estimates show that Black and Latino sexual minority adolescent boys are among the groups at highest risk for both police discrimination and HIV, there is little research examining how police discrimination may affect HIV risk. In particular, it is currently unclear how experiences of police discrimination may contribute to the emotional and behavioral risk factors associated with HIV among these boys. Thus, the present study examined links between police discrimination, psychological distress (anxiety symptoms, depressive symptoms, emotion regulation difficulties), and HIV transmission risk behavior (TRB) among Black and Latino gay and bisexual adolescent boys. We hypothesized that police discrimination would be positively associated with psychological distress and TRB over and above the influence of other common types of discrimination associated with the race and sexual identity that these adolescents face.

Methods: Participants were a national sample of 131 self-identified Black and Latino boys between ages 16-18 (Mage=17.5) who were not using pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). We collected cross-sectional data on past-year police discrimination (latent variable from Police and Law Enforcement Scale [PLE]), emotional risk factors (latent psychological distress [mean depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms, emotion dysregulation]), and behavioral risk factors (count variable of anal sex acts without a condom while not on PrEP [TRB]). We ran a structural equation model (SEM) within Mplus 7.4 to test if police discrimination was associated with HIV risk after adjusting for demographic variables (incarceration history, education, and ethnicity) and racial and sexual identity discrimination. We modelled the TRB count variable with a poisson distribution and the variable was offset by overall sexual activity.

Results: About 30% of boys reported experiencing police discrimination within the past 12 months. Results did not provide evidence for differences in frequency of police discrimination across incarceration history, t(129)= -0.72, p = 0.94, ethnicity, t(129)= -0.92, p = 0.36, or education, F(1,130) = 0.55, p = 0.46. SEM results indicated that, after adjusting for the effects of racial and sexual identity discrimination, police discrimination was significantly positively associated with both psychological distress (b=0.31, p≤0.01) and TRB (b=0.08, p≤0.01). Standard fit indices were not available since we modelled the TRB count variable using a poisson distribution, though the latent PLE and psychological distress variables both fit the data well in confirmatory factor analyses.

Conclusions: These results suggest that police discrimination is a critical source of stigma that contributes to multidimensional HIV risk for Black and Latino sexual minority adolescent boys. In particular, police discrimination may lead to higher levels of psychological distress and increased sexual risk behavior, both of which contribute to current HIV inequities experienced by these youth. Additional longitudinal research is needed to examine the mediators of these associations to inform the reduction of police discrimination on enduring HIV inequities among Black and Latino gay and bisexual boys.

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