Help Is Available: Supporting Mental Wellness Through Peer Health Navigation with Young Black Men Who Have Sex with Men with HIV

Donald R. Gerke, Jeff Glotfelty, Maria Freshman, Julia Schlueter, Alex Ochs, Katie Plax

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Young black men who have sex with men (YBMSM) with HIV experience disproportionate rates of trauma, incarceration, poverty, racial discrimination, and homophobia. The synergistic effects of these adverse experiences, along with increased rates of mental health disorders, increase their risk for poor health. To address this need, the study authors adapted a current HIV service model to include a peer-health navigation intervention (WITH U) to attend to behavioral health, health literacy, linkage to services, and psychosocial support for YBMSM with HIV. This longitudinal, mixed-methods, nonexperimental study reports on the mental health burden among participants and the association between participation in WITH U and mental wellness outcomes. Participants (N = 65) were an average age of 25-26 years (mean = 25.48, standard deviation = 2.51). Over 25% of participants reported clinically significant depression and/or anxiety symptoms and nearly half the participants reported experiencing post-traumatic stress symptoms that were at least moderately difficult to handle. Quantitative analyses indicated no significant positive association between intervention engagement and mental health symptoms; however, reporting a greater number of depression symptoms was associated with attending fewer intervention sessions. Qualitative data analysis revealed that participants' mental wellness was positively impacted by participating in the intervention and that participants preferred to receive mental wellness support from peer health navigators (HNs) rather than licensed mental health professionals. Yet, peer HNs did not feel adequately prepared to address participants' mental wellness concerns. Increased training for peer HNs and development of a linkage process to more formalized mental health services with community input may strengthen mental wellness support.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAIDS patient care and STDs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2022


  • HIV
  • MSM
  • health navigation
  • mental health
  • peer support


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