Project Engage: Engaging Gay “Community” Activism for Syphilis Prevention

An exploration of the meaning and relevance of "community" among Black/African American men who have sex with men.

Project Engage was a two year qualitative assessment that explored the meaning of and relevance of “community” through qualitative interviews and focus groups among Black/African-American men who have sex with men (MSM) in two cities with high rates of HIV and syphilis, New Orleans, Louisiana and Washington D.C. The purpose of the first phase of the study was to explore how Black/African-American MSM define and perceive concepts of “community,” “gay community,” and “black gay community”in addition to the relevance and importance of self-defined concepts of community for engaging Black/African-American MSM in actions/interventions to improve sexual health, and  STD prevention efforts. The second phase expanded upon the first phase by exploring the concepts of community belongingness, syphilis and PrEP knowledge and awareness, and the differences between the Black/African American community and the larger gay community.

Our Work

Thirty-six interviews and eight focus groups were conducted over two years with African American MSM in New Orleans, LA and Washington, D.C. A subset of interviews were conducted with key informants identified as Black/African-American MSM who are currently involved with local sexual health activism. Interview and focus group transcripts were coded for overarching themes using an iterative process and findings reports were distributed internally at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


Findings from the interviews will help inform community engagement and mobilization efforts, and will be used to refine and tailor current outreach and communication strategies for reaching Black/African-American MSM. The project will build capacity of STD programs by helping to identify key partnerships needed to promote more inclusive involvement of Black/African-American MSM in integrating STD prevention into a broader sexual health framework. Findings are also likely to be helpful to DSTDP and its state health department partners as they develop a framework for encouraging and supporting services that target gay, bisexual, and other Black/African-American MSM in local areas.


Brittany Bickford, MPH, Monique Carry, PhD1 , Jennifer J. Edwards, PhD, GCIS, Aaron Alford, PhD, MPH

This project is funded by U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention Cooperative Agreement OT13-1302.

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1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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