Emily Arnold, PhD, MPH

Emily Arnold PhD MPHMy research interests lie at the intersections of culture and health behavior, particularly as this relates to gender, sexuality, and HIV-related risk behavior. Much of my work has been concerned with sexual culture among gay and bisexual men, and its influence on sexual identity, sexual behavior, and HIV-related risk practices. I am also interested in identifying culturally appropriate HIV prevention intervention mechanisms to reach young gay and bisexual men, especially young African American gay and bisexual men, who have been disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS in the US.

My primary research project is a mixed methods study of the ballroom community in the San Francisco Bay Area. This is a 5 year study to explore the implications that houses, or social networks, may have on the provision of social support for young African American gay and bisexual men and its association with HIV-related risk behavior. This is an innovative project, based on a two year ethnographic study that will provide the foundation for the development of population-specific measures of social networks and social support, which will be fielded in a cross sectional quantitative survey in the final phase of the study. The ballroom community offers HIV prevention researchers and interventionists a unique and culturally appropriate avenue for reaching young African American gay and bisexual men. Identifying organic and genuine forms of social support within the ballroom community may provide researchers with innovative ways to reach other men in the larger community of young African American gay and bisexual men.

A secondary area of research involves the adaptation of existing evidence-based HIV prevention interventions to populations of young African American MSM. Given the central role of spirituality for many African American gay and bisexual men, and the relative lack of culturally specific HIV prevention programming available to this population, one project I am involved in is exploring ways to do effective HIV prevention programming from faith-based organizations in California. This project is a community collaborative initiative between UCSF-CAPS and the Unity Fellowship Movement, an “open and affirming” church that welcomes GLBTQ-identified African Americans. Another project is devoted to adapting and rigorously testing the MPowerment program, one of the Centers for Disease Control DEBI projects, for a young Black MSM population. I am the Project Anthropologist on this study and am involved in examining culturally appropriate ways to adapt this intervention, previously shown to be effective with white and acculturated Latino gay men.

Research interests

HIV prevention research, qualitative research, social behavioral research, intervention research, HIV prevention with MSM populations, urban ethnography, sexuality, sexual culture.

Current research


  • 2004, Fellow (HIV Prevention), Center for AIDS Prevention Studies, University of California, San Francisco
  • 2004, Ph.D. Sociomedical Sciences (Anthropology), Columbia University, New York , NY
  • 2002, M.Phil, Sociomedical Sciences (Anthropology), Columbia University, New York , NY
  • 2001, M.A. Sociomedical Sciences (Anthropology), Columbia University, New York , NY
  • 1996, B.A. (College of Social Studies), cum laude , Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT


Operario D, Smith CD, Arnold E, Kegeles S. Sexual Risk and Substance Use Behaviors Among African American Men Who Have Sex with Men and Women. AIDS Behav. 2009 Jul 2. [Epub ahead of print]

Last modified: December 4, 2014