Improving LGBTQ Health with Brian Mustanski, PhD
The health of LGBTQ people has long been understudied in the scientific community. Brian Mustanski, PhD, wants to change that. As the director of the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing at Northwestern, he is leading an effort to study, intervene and improve the health of the sexual and gender minority community.
"We are seeing declines in numbers of (HIV) diagnoses in the general U.S. population, but unfortunately we see other populations that are really left behind and that very much includes young gay and bisexual men, particularly Black and Latino young, gay and bisexual men."
- Director, Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing
- Professor of Medical Social Sciences, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
Studies show that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and gender nonconforming people have a higher risk of health problems from suicide to substance abuse and sexually transmitted infection.
Brian Mustanski, PhD, director of the Northwestern Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing at Northwestern is leading an effort to study, intervene and improve the health of the sexual and gender minority community.
Brian Mustanski: “Sometimes I say it feels like we're strapped to a rocket because just even over the last couple of years we've grown to having millions of dollars of research funding. We've had an incredible response from philanthropists who are interested in supporting our work. Not everything we do can get supported with federal dollars. Philanthropy is just so critical to creating opportunities for us to educate the next generation of people who want to do this kind of work.”
Mustanski is conducting the longest running study of young gay men ever done, with the goal of preventing new cases of HIV in this population.
Brian Mustanski: "A lot of people are under the impression that everyone knows about HIV, but we really don't do a great job of educating young, gay and bisexual men about HIV," Mustanski says. "The typical places where people learn about it, like schools, don't really talk about same sex relationship."
Cases of HIV are increasing in Black and Hispanic gay and bisexual men.
Brian Mustanski: "We are seeing declines in numbers of diagnoses in the general U.S. population, but unfortunately we see other populations that are really left behind and that very much includes young gay and bisexual men, particularly Black and Latino young, gay and bisexual men. The CDC recently estimated that if we don't change these patterns, that one in two Black, gay men will get HIV at some point in their life, one in six Latino and one in 11 White, gay and bisexual men will get HIV."
A recent study showed that Mustanski's online program -- Keep It Up! -- reduced sexually transmitted infections, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia, in gay young men, by 40 percent.
Brian Mustanski: "There's never been an e-health HIV intervention before that had a biomedical outcome. Sexually transmitted infections are a marker of HIV risk. Obviously the same behaviors that can lead to HIV transmission can also transmit sexually transmitted infections, but also having a sexually transmitted infection biologically increases your risk for HIV. So, reducing STD rates is HIV prevention."
While the majority of the research taking place within the Institute of Sexual and Gender Minority Health focuses on HIV/AIDS, Mustanski is very committed to advancing work on other health issues that affect the population as well, such as suicide prevention, cancer prevention, intimate partner violence in young lesbian and bisexual women and the health of bisexual adolescents.
Brian Mustanski: "You might be surprised to know that bisexuals actually represent the largest number of sexual and gender minority youth," he says. "That's the biggest group, but there's been very little research today on the health of bisexual young people, so we were happy to recruit a new faculty member, Dr. Brian Feinstein, whose primary focus is on the health of bisexual adolescents."
Mustanski was told to not disclose that he was gay when applying to graduate school in the late 1990s because he was told there were some people in higher education who thought gay people shouldn't be psychologists. He says the culture is now changing thanks to institutions such as Northwestern, that are making a commitment to the sexual and gender minority community on many levels.
Brian Mustanski: "Northwestern was in the pride parade. I was happy to march with the group from Northwestern and it's really amazing to basically be walking for three hours in a Northwestern t-shirt at the pride parade with people just clapping and cheering and being so excited to see Northwestern represented."
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Brian Mustanski, PhD, disclosed external professional relationships (consulting) with Hologic, Inc., has nothing to disclose. Course director, Robert Rosa, MD, has nothing to disclose. Peer reviewer, Richard D'Aquila, MD, has nothing to disclose. Planning committee member, Erin Spain, has nothing to disclose. Feinberg School of Medicine's CME Leadership and Staff have nothing to disclose: Clara J. Schroedl, MD, Medical Director of CME, Sheryl Corey, Manager of CME, Jennifer Banys, Senior Program Administrator, Allison McCollum, Senior Program Coordinator, and Rhea Alexis Banks, Administrative Assistant 2.