5W Wednesday: SexLab at UM SPH

Our 5W Wednesday series highlights a variety of health care organizations, professionals and programs that keep our community healthy.

Who are they?
The Sexuality & Health Lab (SexLab) is a research  division of the University of Michigan School of Public Health. The lab is run by Dr. Jose Bauermeister, Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, and Project Manager Emily Pingel, as well as a team of master’s and doctoral-level students. In addition, the Sexuality & Health Lab collaborates with researchers both within and outside of UM SPH.

When was the SexLab founded?
Dr. Bauermeister founded the Sexlab in January 2009 with the help of  three School of Public Health students: Michelle Johns, Anna Eisenberg, and Emily Pingel. The idea behind SexLab was to have a research space where the interplay betweenpublic health and sexuality could be examined critically.

What are they doing?
Researchers at the SexLab study the psychosocial factors that relate to HIV prevention and comprehensive sexual health, as well as sexuality-based health disparities. Researchers at the SexLab conduct studies to pioneer effective interventions to prevent HIV infection and transmission and decrease sexuality-based health disparities.

Some of the SexLab’s current studies include:

  • The Virtual Love Study explores why and how young men who have sex with men (YMSM) use the Internet to meet partners and how online dating contextualizes YMSM’s HIV/AIDS risk behaviors.
  • HIV Testing for YMSM examines how to address the role of psychosocial factors and local social/sexual networks in Washtenaw-area YMSMs’ decisions to have an HIV test.
  • PhotoLove is a study that uses a combination of interviews and nonverbal communication in the form of photographs and collages to learn more about how gay, bisexual, queer, and questioning men feel about romantic love.
  • The Michigan Smoking and Sexuality Study explores the psychosocial correlates associated with sexual minority female youths’ smoking behaviors for the development of a tailored smoking cessation program.
  • The Virtual Network Study seeks to understand the role of the Internet in youth’s risk-taking behaviors by studying youth’s substance use behaviors, separately and concurrently with sex.

Why are these studies needed?
Across many aspects of health, sexual minority youth may have, on average, poorer health outcomes than their heterosexual counterparts. Many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth and those who are questioning their sexual orientation are happy and thrive during their adolescent and young adult years; however, negative attitudes toward gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people put LGBT youth at increased risk for discrimination and violence (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, LGBT Health: Youth).

Two sexual minority health disparities discussed on the SexLab website are the disproportionate share of new HIV infections young men who have sex with men, especially those who are African American or Latino, and the increased smoking rates among sexual minority female youth. The HIV Testing for YMSM and the Michigan Smoking and Sexuality Study currently underway at the SexLab address the fact that traditional programs for HIV prevention and smoking cessation may not be reaching sexual minority youth, and gather evidence for future interventions that can better serve these populations.

Where can I get more information?
You can get find more information about the SexLab by visiting their website or facebook page.

For resources on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender health, see the library’s LGBTQ health resource guide, which includes resources for community members as well as health professionals.

For resources on HIV/AIDS, see the library’s World AIDS  Week resource guide, which includes local, national, and international resources and information about HIV and AIDS.

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