Matthew Mutchler: Research on HIV Among Gay Men of Color Provides Insight Into Multicultural Attitudes
Matthew Mutchler, associate professor of sociology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, recently received a two-year National Institutes of Health grant of $270,000
for his research on the relationship between substance abuse and HIV with a focus on young gay African American and Latino men. He says there is a need for recognition of the unique issues that surround substance abuse and HIV in these communities in order to find ways to prevent them.
“Different issues all have to be addressed – sexuality, homophobia, sexism, racism – in order to get to a point where people can openly discuss safer sex and be able to communicate better about it and protect themselves,” Mutchler says.
Although Mutchler has been conducting community-based research on HIV and AIDS for the last 20 years, working with agencies such as AIDS Project Los Angeles, he says that the study on substance abuse and its relation to HIV infection among gay men of color is relatively new.
“Even though there was a big public health alarm about crystal [methadone] use being a problem for gay men and leading to HIV, a lot of young gay men of color didn’t feel that was their main substance in their community,” he says. “I wanted to explore more on what substances were they using and how these were affecting their decisions about safer sex. It’s become clear more recently that the infection rates are disproportionately high with young people in African American and Latino communities. A lot of the programs that were developed early on were ‘one-size-fits-all.’ That’s what made the project novel, was focusing on these communities. The other matter is not just substance abuse and HIV, but trying to understand where they connect to [unprotected] sex.”
Mutchler says that the double stigmas of homosexuality and racism are barriers to more open dialogue about substance abuse and HIV infection in these communities.
“You have the stigma of homosexuality, but also the discrimination that African Americans and Latinos experience,” he says. “That makes it more difficult to talk about issues in general. A lot of the time, if you’re gay, it’s hard to know exactly where you fit. There’s going to be homophobia in your racial community, but there can also be racism within the gay community.”
Mutchler, who involves students regularly in his projects, says that enhancing his teaching with research and taking his students out of the classroom and into the field gives added value to the sociology curriculum at CSU Dominguez Hills.
“Our [department’s] focus is on serving the community,” he says. “Our faculty has a broad range of experience, and there’s a value here on the applied [work] that isn’t as prevalent in some other institutions. Sociology and its service to community is our mission.”
For more information on the department of sociology at CSU Dominguez Hills, click here.
- Joanie Harmon