September 11, 2013  


The MAALES program emphasizes a holistic cultural form of HIV intervention aimed at lowering rates of sexually transmitted diseases in African American males.

LOS ANGELES, CA- A study recently published in the journal AIDS describes a promising intervention, one designed to help reduce risky sexual behavior in black men who have sex with men and women (MSMW). The study’s first author is Nina T. Harawa, MPH, PhD, an Associate Professor at CDU and an adjunct associate professor at UCLA. The study, outlines a successful cultural program using elements of the Critical Thinking and Cultural Affirmation Model developed by Cleo Manago, CDU Community Faculty Member and Director of AmASSI (African, American Advocacy, Support-Services & Survival Institute).

To perform the intervention and research, Dr. Harawa, Dr. John Williams of UCLA and colleagues collaborated with three community-based agencies in Los Angeles that provide services to at-risk and HIV-infected clients.

As Dr. Harawa and colleagues note, “Holistic HIV interventions may be vital for groups like black men who have sex with men and women whose concerns regarding HIV stigma, sexuality, and financial hardship may complicate engagement in biomedical prevention and HIV treatment.”

The need for such successful behavioral intervention programs is high. Close to half of all new HIV infections in the US occur in African Americans. Almost three-fourths of new HIV infections in black men are related to sexual encounters with other men, and some of these men may infect their female partners. Despite this, until now few interventions have targeted black men who have sex with men or with both men and women.

Older interventions targeted to gay-identified men may not work well with many black MSMW, as many do not often identify with gay communities. They may also have concerns about fulfilling traditional gender expectations. This most recent intervention takes a different approach. The intervention, termed MAALES (Men of African American Legacy Empowering Self), emphasizes a shared African American heritage and addresses societal expectations and stereotypes of Black men.

The researchers studied over 400 African American men who had at least one sexual experience with a female in the past 24 months and one or more with a male in the same period. These men were separated into two groups. The control group received a standard 15-20 minute session on HIV education and risk reduction.

In contrast, members of the MAALES group received six 2-hour group sessions conducted over three weeks, followed by booster sessions. The group sessions gave participants a comfortable setting in which to discuss sensitive topics, focusing on past experiences, present risk behaviors, and goal setting for the future. These sessions emphasized not just the well-being of participants, but that of the other individuals intimately related to participants.

Individuals who were assigned to the MAALES session reported significantly fewer episodes of unprotected sex with female partners and fewer female partners overall.
The findings underscore the promise of this type of intervention to bring about important behavior change and ultimately decrease rates of HIV infection. The investigators are now completing a trial that examines a related intervention in men recently released from incarceration.  They plan to work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help MAALES become one of the standardized interventions that the agency routinely funds community-based providers to carry out with clients.
Read the study in full here: 


For more information, please contact:

Jessica Gelzer
323-892-2080 OR 818-399-4088




About Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science
CDU is a private, nonprofit, nonsectarian, minority-serving medical and health sciences institution. Located in the Watts-Willowbrook area of South Los Angeles, CDU has graduated more than 550 medical doctors, 2,500 post-graduate physicians, more than 2,000 physician assistants and hundreds of other health professionals. The only dually designated Historically Black Graduate Institution and Hispanic Serving Health Professions School in the U.S., CDU is recognized as a leader in translational and health inequities research, specifically with respect to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, mental health, and HIV/AIDS. Recently, the CDU/UCLA medical program was named the best performaer in the University of California System with respect to producing outstanding underrepresented minority physicians by the Greenlining Institute. For more information, visit


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