Socio-cultural Contexts and Young Men’s Sexual Lives (Context Study)

(July 2016- June 2021; CIHR)

Co-Principal Investigators: Jean Shoveller and Rod Knight

Co-Investigators: Jesse Brown, Danya Fast, Mark Gilbert, Perry Kendall, Andrea Krüsi, Nathan Lachowsky, Brandon Marshall, Ryan McNeil, John Oliffe, Kate Shannon, Will Small 

STI/HIV incidence continues to rise, particularly among subgroups of young men who have sex with men. New STI/HIV interventions are being launched in order to address the escalating needs of young men; however, few studies have examined how features of sociocultural contexts affect young men’s uptake of new and unfolding STI/HIV interventions. For example, for today’s young men, the availability of effective treatment for HIV infection is a potential “game changer” and the socio-cultural contexts in which they launch their sexual careers are profoundly different from those experienced by previous generations. Today’s young men are exposed to evolving gender stereotypes, a proliferation of online dating or ‘hook-up’ platforms, and other factors that shape their sexual lives. Providing more “knowledge” to young men might help them engage in risk-reduction practices and biotechnical interventions (e.g., antiretroviral-based prevention strategies, such as PrEP) may provide added technical capacities to reduce risk, but successful and sustainable interventions need to account for evolving implementation contexts. Thus, the proposed study is timely and important because it can help intervention planners to understand today’s sociocultural contexts and their influence on STI/HIV-related risks experienced by today’s young men.

In the BC context, we are studying three intervention programs designed to reduce young men’s STI/HIV risks:

  • BC Centre for Disease Control’s GetCheckedOnline;
  • YouthCO’s Mpowerment YVR; and
  • BC Ministry of Health’s Provincial Strategy for STI Prevention, Testing and Treatment.

The data generated from the proposed study will inform the effective and ethical adaptation and scaling up of these interventions in ways that enhance their capacity to positively affect the sexual health of young men at risk for STI/HIV.

The objectives of this 5-year study are:

  • Examine how young men describe the links between contemporary socio-cultural contexts, their sexual lives, and STI/HIV-related risks.
  • Identify young men’s perspectives on evolving masculinities, femininities, and gender regimes, and how those may influence their experiences with STI/HIV interventions.
  • Describe the perspectives of policy makers and service providers regarding the ways in which contemporary socio-cultural contexts affect new and ongoing STI/HIV interventions for young men.
  • Inform the implementation and scaling up of our team’s three STI/HIV interventions in ways that adapt to young men’s contemporary socio-cultural contexts.

Total: $573,375