Tag Archives: Black Men

Sex In Prison, Part One

     It’s an unfortunate fact that Black men—vastly over represented within our prison system—make up a high percentage of HIV-positive inmates. And according to the study, “Incarcerated Black Men Report Sex in Prison, Posing Challenges for HIV Prevention and Treatment,” these males pose an infection risk not only to other inmates—but to members of their communities once they are released.  The study was conducted by the Columbia University School of Nursing.

     “While sex is prohibited in U.S. prisons, sexual encounters are commonplace and few inmates express concern about getting or spreading HIV,” stated one of the authors, Tawandra Rowell-Cunsolo, PhD, Assistant Professor of Social Welfare Science at the Columbia University School of Nursing. 

     “The study asked open-ended questions about sexual behavior.  Many of the respondents said that deprivations of prison life promote same-sex encounters and that, although they have been exposed to prison rape, most of the sexual behavior within the institution is consensual.  Some also expressed negative attitudes toward men having sex with men.”

     Rowell-Cunsolo continued, “To prevent HIV in prisons and curb its spread once inmates are sent home, we need a better understanding of how Black men perceive sexuality while they’re imprisoned.”


     According to the study, the latest advances in HIV prevention and treatment haven’t penetrated the U.S. prison system, where inmates already at high risk for developing HIV frequently lack access to basic prevention—and don’t get tested for the virus.  “Previous research into the spread of HIV within the prison system has shown that inmates have much higher infection rates than the general population, but hasn’t provided a clear picture of what interventions might be most effective in this environment.”

     Rowell-Cunsolo added, “These are people who can benefit from education and outreach while they’re in prison, but there’s also a much larger public health issue at stake here.  These are people who are going to come out of prison, and preventing the spread of HIV in prison becomes a large community issue once these men return home.”

     Currently, nearly 1.7 million persons are in the federal prison system.  And at current incarceration rates, one in three Black men will be in prison at some point in their lives.  Rowell-Cunsolo surveyed 63 Black inmates at one of the largest maximum-security male prisons in the U.S., inquiring about their sexual behavior within that institution.  Two-thirds of that facility’s prisoners were Black; most of the study’s participants were married with at least one child.

     Over the past ten years, prison-based HIV research has found that only about half of American facilities offer HIV testing.  “There are some prison systems that distribute condoms or have a needle exchange program to prevent the spread of HIV, but for the most part this isn’t done because its seen as supporting behavior that’s explicitly against the rules in prison,” Rowell-Cunsolo stated. 

    The author continued, “That makes basic sex and HIV education really important.  Some of these men have been incarcerated since before the AIDS epidemic hit the scene and they literally don’t know how it spreads or how to protect themselves.”

     Each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated one in seven people with HIV passes through the prison system.  More than 1.1 million Americans are now living with HIV, and almost one in five don’t know they’re infected.

     COMING NEXT:  Former Prisoners Discuss Their Sexual Experiences In Prison.

Sex in prison

Sex Behind Bars

    Black men—vastly over represented within our prison system—constitute a large percentage of HIV-positive inmates.  And as a result, they pose an infection risk not only to other inmates—but to members of their communities once they’re released. 

    To learn more, read the latest The W.O.E. Report, my exclusive column in the September edition of Baltimore Gay Life.  Here’s a link to the online version of the magazine. My article is on page 20, so you have to go to page 20 after going here.

someone holding a banana with a condom over it demonstrating usage

Recent Study: Black MSM Experience Higher Condom Misuse, Failure Rates

     You know, I absolutely adore my assistant, Raheem!  One important reason: he uncovers topical issues impacting the LGBTQ Community for exclusive features in Wyattevans.com

     Raheem handed me an article from Poz.com about a recent observational study with this eye-opening conclusion:  Black men who engage in sex with men (MSM) report higher rates of condom breakage and slippage as well as incomplete condom usage compared with Caucasian MSM.  Researchers studied cross-sectional data of 475 MSM who participated in this Atlanta study and said they had used a condom for insertive sex (being the top) during the previous six months.

     Poz.com states, “Black MSM were twice as likely as white MSM to report both breakage of condoms and slippage when pulling out.  Nearly 40 percent of Black MSM reported using a condom incompletely, meaning they put it on after already engaging in intercourse for a time or took it off before finishing intercourse; Black MSM were significantly more likely than white   MSM to report this.”

     The source continues, “Thirty-one percent of the MSM reported using a condom correctly, with most error rates similar between the races. However, 53 percent of Black MSM reported using oil-based lubricants, which can weaken condoms, compared with 21 percent of white MSM. Also, Black MSM were more likely than white MSM to unroll a condom completely before putting it on the penis. (The correct way to apply a condom is to roll it down over an erect penis, making sure that what will become the inside of the condom is facing down before allowing the latex to touch the tip of the penis.)    MSM between the ages of 18 and 24 were 40 percent less likely to use a condom correctly compared with those 25 to 29 years of age.  When factoring out race, younger men and those with less education were more likely to use oil-based lubricants.”

     According to 54 percent of the participants, standard condoms did not have the best, the most ideal feel or fit.  And, white MSM were more likely than Black MSM to report fit or feel problems or issues with maintaining an erection while using a condom.

     “The researchers concluded that their findings suggest that oil-based lubricant use, as well as fit and feel problems, may account for a considerable percentage of condom breaks among MSM.  They called for the condom industry to design better fitting condoms to address this problem.  Better feeling and fitting condoms might not only increase the use of condoms in this population and but also decrease the likelihood of incomplete use.”