Snip. Clip. Buzz. Some men walk through the doors of a barbershop seeking more than a fresh cut and shave. Black barbershops and beauty shops are trusted, arguably sacred spaces, where many African Americans go to convene vulnerably and freely, to discuss community happenings and current events, and to bond over shared experiences. Black barbers do more than cut hair. They often take on the role of mentor, therapist, and friend.
Black men are impacted by HIV more than any other group in the US. Barbershop Talk with Brothers was created to support and empower heterosexual Black men residing in Brooklyn neighborhoods that have a high prevalence of HIV. The main goal of the program was to increase consistent condom use and emphasize men’s self-determination and strengths through educational messaging, role-play, discussions of condom-use negotiation, and self-evaluation. Barbers were trained and coached to refer customers to the program. They also administered activities along with project staff.
A recent case-control study with safer sex as the outcome of interest evaluated the impact of the intervention. Twenty-four barbershops implemented Barbershop Talk with Brothers and 29 others focused on prostate cancer screening, rather than safe sexual behavior, as a comparison. All 53 shops offered free condoms. Most of the men involved had health insurance, completed high school, and had a history of incarceration.
The authors found that experiencing the Barbershop Talk with Brothers intervention led to a greater likelihood of using condoms. In a sixth-month follow up, 65% assigned to the Barbershop Talk with Brothers group reported having no sex without a condom in the past 90 days compared to 54% of control group participants, a significant difference.
The authors suggest that the program was successful at reaching an underserved group of men. They speculate that expanding programs like Barbershop Talk with Brothers could reduce HIV-related inequities nationwide.
Databyte via Tracey E. Wilson et al., 2019: HIV Prevention for Black Heterosexual Men: The Barbershop Talk with Brothers Cluster Randomized Trial. American Journal of Public Health 109, 1131_1137. Data visualization by Jamal Yearwood.