Among Black gay, bisexual and other sexual minority men, having a history of incarceration and reporting police discrimination are associated with a higher level of risk factors for acquiring HIV.

That’s according to a new study out of Rutgers University, published in Social Science & Medicine, in which investigators surveyed 1,172 men in this demographic from across the United States.

The participants reported on a number of behaviors tied to HIV risk during the previous six months, including their sexual behavior and their willingness to take pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). They also reported any history of incarceration, experiences with discrimination from the police or other law enforcement, and anxiety and depression.

Forty-three percent of the men reported experiencing police discrimination during the previous year. This rate was even higher among those with a history of incarceration. Those who reported experiencing police discrimination, compared with those who did not, were more likely to report behaviors linked to a substantial risk of HIV and a low willingness to take PrEP as well as high levels of psychological distress.

The participants who had been incarcerated or had recently been arrested, compared with those who had no such history, likewise had a higher overall level of HIV risk and a lower willingness to take PrEP.

Findings suggest police discrimination may be a mechanism of mass incarceration and fundamental driver of health inequities among Black sexual minority men,” the study authors concluded.

“Evidence suggests Black sexual minority men in the United States may face some of the highest rates of policing and incarceration in the world,” the study’s lead author, Devin English, PhD, an assistant professor at the Rutgers School of Public Health, said in a press release. “Despite this, research examining the health impacts of the U.S. carceral system rarely focuses on their experiences. This study helps to address this gap.”

English and his coauthors called for advocacy and interventions aimed at reducing discrimination in the criminal justice system as well as across the United States as a whole.

To read a press release about the study, click here.

To read the study abstract, click here.