BACKGROUND: Stigma may mediate some of the observed disparity in HIV infection rates between black and white men who have sex with men (MSM).
METHODS: We used data from the General Social Survey to describe race-specific trends in the US population's attitude toward homosexuality, reporting of male same-sex sexual behavior, and behaviors that might mediate the relationship between stigma and HIV transmission among MSM.
RESULTS: The proportion of blacks who indicated that homosexuality was "always wrong" was 72.3% in 2008, largely unchanged since the 1970s. In contrast, among white respondents, this figure declined from 70.8% in 1973 to 51.6% in 2008 with most change occurring since the early 1990s. Participants who knew a gay person were less likely to have negative attitudes toward homosexuality (relative risk, 0.60; 95% confidence interval, 0.52 to 0.69). Among MSM, twice as many black MSM reported that homosexuality is "always wrong" compared with white MSM (57.1% versus 26.8%, P = 0.003). MSM with unfavorable attitudes toward homosexuality were less likely to report ever testing for HIV compared with MSM with more favorable attitudes (relative risk, 0.50; 95% confidence interval, 0.31 to 0.78).
CONCLUSIONS: US attitudes toward homosexuality are characterized by persistent racial differences, which may help explain disparities in HIV infection rates between black and white MSM.