This study sought to identify predictors of HIV disclosure and serodiscordant unprotected anal intercourse (SDUAI) among HIV-positive men who have sex with men (MSM). Between January 2005 and April 2006, 675 HIV-positive MSM were recruited into the Positive Connections intervention trial held in six US cities with intentional over-sampling of HIV-positive MSM of Color (74%) and men engaging in unprotected anal intercourse (UAI) in the previous year. Baseline survey data showed 30 and 31%, respectively, of participants disclosed to none or some of their secondary sex partners in the last 90 days. Greater disclosure to secondary partners was associated with having fewer sexual partners, being extremely out as MSM, longer HIV diagnosis, knowledge of CD4 count, detectable viral load and being white. Disclosure to all secondary partners was associated with lower SDUAI. Recommendations for prevention for HIV-positive MSM include the promotion of serodisclosure to all secondary partners and increasing comfort with, and outness about, one’s sexuality.
HIV positive; serodisclosure; men who have sex with men; men of Color; sexual risk
We studied internalized homonegativity (IH) in 675 HIV-positive MSM from six epicenters across the US who attended an HIV prevention workshop. Participants included 300 African American and over 150 Hispanic White and White Non-Hispanic men. Higher IH was significantly associated with African American race. Compulsive sexual behavior, openness as MSM, sexual comfort, depression, education level, and importance of religion also were associated with IH, and independently predicted a third of this outcome's variance. For those with higher IH, two significant paths led to unsafe sexual behavior. First, to serodiscordant unprotected anal intercourse (SDUAI) through being less “out” – thus disclosing serostatus to secondary partners less frequently. Second, to lower condom self-efficacy and SDUAI through lower sexual comfort. These data provide information on the demographic, sexual and mental health variables associated with IH. They offer an indication of the paths through which IH is associated with serodiscordant risk behavior in HIV-positive MSM.
homonegativity; homophobia; men who have sex with men; HIV; sexual risk
An understanding of men’s motivations to avoid risk behavior is needed to create efficacious HIV prevention programs for HIV-positive men who have sex with men (MSM). This study investigates the relationship between sexual risk behavior and HIV prevention altruism, which is defined as the values, motivations, and practices of caretaking towards one’s sexual partners to prevent the transmission of HIV. In a sample of 637 HIV-positive MSM, HIV prevention altruism significantly protects against serodiscordant unprotected anal intercourse (SDUAI) in crude analysis, but not after adjustment for drug use and compulsive sexual behavior. HIV prevention altruism is also related to avoidance of anal sex, but is not related to serodisclosure to secondary partners. Lack of altruism appears related to sexual risk behavior in HIV-positive MSM, although other psychological and contextual factors play significant roles. The promotion of HIV prevention altruism may provide a formidable new direction for HIV prevention programs.
altruism; MSM; HIV-positive; prevention
The aims of this study were to understand strategies and consistency of strategy used by HIV-negative and HIV-positive men who have sex with men (MSM) to ascertain the HIV status of their male sexual partners and their associations with unprotected anal intercourse (UAI) and serodiscordant UAI (SDUAI) in the past 3 months. Participants (n=640) completed an online survey in December 2007. The most commonly reported strategy was checking online profiles (85%), followed by talking before sex (82%), talking after sex (42%), and guessing (29%). Adjusting for demographic and behavioral factors, guessing the HIV status of sex partners was associated with greater UAI (IRR=1.18) and SDUAI (IRR =2.651) partners, as was using an inconsistent strategy (UAI: IRR=1.36; SDUAI: IRR=1.94). Ascertaining HIV status before having sex was associated with fewer SDUAI partners (IRR=0.32). Prevention should target MSM who guess the HIV status of their sex partners and emphasize explicit safer sex agreements.
HIV; HIV disclosure and ascertainment; men who have sex with men; Internet; HIV risk
Depression has been shown to be a risk factor for serodiscordant unprotected anal intercourse (SDUAI) in some studies, but not others. Body mass index (BMI) has recently been associated with SDUAI; however, to date, no published study has investigated the interactive effect of depression and BMI on SDUAI. The current study assessed the association between depression, BMI, and SDUAI among HIV-positive MSM. Participants were 430 HIV-positive MSM recruited in a Boston community health center where they received primary care. Participants completed audio computer-assisted self interview (ACASI) measures. Objective height and weight and other clinical variables were accessed through participants’ electronic medical records. Depression was positively associated with SDUAI. This association was significantly moderated by BMI. Elevated levels of depression were only associated with SDUAI for underweight participants. These findings suggest that underweight, depressed HIV-positive MSM may be particularly likely to engage in SDUAI.
HIV/AIDS; BMI; Depression; MSM; Sexual transmission risk
The association between HIV treatment optimism—beliefs about susceptibility to transmit HIV, motivation to use condoms, and severity of HIV—and sexual risk behavior was examined among HIV-positive African American men who have sex with men (MSM). Participants were 174 men recruited in four major metropolitan areas of the United States to participate in a weekend HIV risk reduction intervention. Baseline results revealed that beliefs in less susceptibility to transmit HIV and less motivation to use condoms were significantly associated with more unprotected anal intercourse among serodiscordant casual partners. Less motivation to use condoms also predicted more unprotected insertive and receptive anal sex and was more important than susceptibility beliefs in predicting these behaviors. Suggestions are offered of ways to better inform HIV-positive African American MSM about their misperceptions about HIV treatment and how their level of optimism about HIV treatment may diminish or encourage condom use.
African American; HIV treatment optimism; condom use
Previous studies have found high rates of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) among US men who have sex with men (MSM). CSA history has been associated with a variety of negative effects later in life including behaviors that place MSM at greater risk for HIV acquisition and transmission. The present analysis is the first to examine the longitudinal association between CSA and HIV infection, unprotected anal sex, and serodiscordant unprotected anal sex, as well as mediators of these relationships among a large sample of HIV-uninfected MSM.
The EXPLORE Study was a behavioral intervention trial conducted in 6 US cities over 48 months with HIV infection as the primary efficacy outcome. Behavioral assessments were done every 6 months via confidential computerized assessments. Longitudinal regression models were constructed, adjusting for randomization arm, geographical location of study site, age at enrollment, education, and race/ethnicity.
Of the 4295 participants enrolled, 39.7% had a history of CSA. Participants with a history of CSA [adjusted hazards ratio = 1.30, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.02 to 1.69] were at increased risk for HIV infection over study follow-up. A significant association was seen between history of CSA and unprotected anal sex (adjusted odds ratio = 1.24, 95% CI: 1.12 to 1.36) and serodiscordant unprotected anal sex (adjusted odds ratio = 1.30, 95% CI: 1.18 to 1.43). Among participants reporting CSA, the EXPLORE intervention had no effect in reducing HIV infection rates. Participants reporting CSA were significantly more likely to have symptoms of depression and use nonprescription drugs.
A predictive relationship between a history of CSA and subsequent HIV infection was observed among this large sample of HIV-uninfected MSM. Findings indicate that HIV-uninfected MSM with CSA histories are at greater risk for HIV infection, report higher rates of HIV sexual risk behavior, and may derive less benefit from prevention programs. Future HIV prevention interventions should address the specific mental health concerns of MSM with a history of CSA.
child sexual abuse; EXPLORE; HIV; MSM; sexual risk taking
Men who have sex with men (MSM), especially MSM of color, are disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS compared to heterosexuals and Caucasians. Nonetheless, fewer sexual and ethnic minorities participate in prevention interventions for people with HIV. We consider recruitment for Positive Connections, a randomized controlled trial comparing unsafe sex prevention interventions primarily for HIV-positive (HIV+) MSM in six US epicenters. One community-based organization (CBO) in each city recruited adult MSM, particularly men of color and HIV+. Recruitment methods included on-line and print advertising, outreach events, health professionals, and social networks. Data on demographics, HIV status, and recruitment method were collected at registration. We tested for differences in registration proportions and attendance rates by recruitment strategy, stratified on race/ethnicity and serostatus. Of the 1,119 registrants, 889 attended the intervention. The sample comprised 41% African American, 18% Latino/Hispanic, and 77% HIV+. Friend referral was reported by the greatest proportion of registrants, particularly among African American (33%) and HIV+ men (25%). Print advertising yielded the largest proportions of non-Hispanic white (27%) and HIV-negative registrants (25%). Registrants recruited on-line were the least likely to attend (45% versus 69% average); this effect was strongest among Latino/Hispanic (27% attendance) and non-Hispanic white men (36%). Retention during the follow-up period did not differ by serostatus, race/ ethnicity, or recruitment method. Differential attendance and retention according to recruitment strategy, serostatus, and racial/ethnic group can inform planning for intervention sample size goals.
Recruitment; Men who have sex with men (MSM); HIV-positive; Minorities
American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) men who have sex with men (MSM) are at high risk of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) acquisition and transmission.
This study aimed to investigate a potential area of focus for HIV prevention interventions by assessing the impact of sexual risk cognitions on sexual risk-taking among AI/AN MSM.
AI/AN MSM (N=173) from a national cross-sectional survey were analyzed.
Reporting more frequent sexual risk cognitions overall (high sexual risk cognitions) was associated with multiple HIV risk factors including unprotected anal intercourse and serodiscordant unprotected anal intercourse. Participants with high sexual risk cognitions had a 2.3 (95% Confidence Interval: 1.1, 4.7) times greater odds of engaging in unprotected anal intercourse regardless of childhood sexual abuse, depression, and alcohol dependence. Most individual sexual risk cognitions were associated with unprotected anal intercourse, serodiscordant unprotected anal intercourse, or both.
Results suggest that sexual risk cognitions may be a productive area for further work on HIV prevention among AI/AN MSM.
MSM; American Indian; Alaska native; HIV/AIDS; Sexual risk cognitions
To address the role of men who have sex with men (MSM) in the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/sexually transmitted disease (STD) epidemic in China.
To explore the prevalence of risky sexual behaviors and the existing prevention efforts among men who have sex with men (MSM) in China.
Review of behavioral and STD/HIV prevention studies addressing MSM in China.
Sexual risk behaviors including unprotected group sex, anal sex, casual sex, and commercial sex were prevalent among Chinese MSM. Many Chinese MSM also engaged in unprotected sex with both men and women. Most MSM either did not perceive that they were at risk of HIV/AIDS or underestimated their risk of infection. Surveillance and intervention research among these men are still in the preliminary stages.
Chinese MSM are at risk for HIV/STD infection and potential transmission of HIV to the general population. In addition to sexual risk reduction among MSM, reduction of homosexualityrelated stigma should be part of effective intervention efforts. Volunteers from the MSM community and health care workers in primary health care system may serve as valuable resources for HIV/STD prevention and control among MSM.
Few studies have examined the psychosocial factors associated with sexual transmission behaviors among HIV-positive men who have sex with men (MSM), heterosexual men (MSW) and women. We enrolled 1,050 sexually active HIV-positive patients at seven HIV clinics in six US cities as part of a clinic-based behavioral intervention. We describe the sexual transmission behaviors and examine demographic, clinical, psychosocial, and clinic prevention variables associated with unprotected anal or vaginal intercourse (UAVI). Twenty-three percent of MSM, 12.3% of MSW and 27.8% of women engaged in UAVI with partners perceived to be HIV-negative or of unknown serostatus. Among MSM and MSW, having multiple partners and lower self-efficacy were associated with increased odds of UAVI. Self-rating one’s health status as excellent/very good was a risk factor for UAVI among MSM. Among women, binge drinking and stressful life events were associated with UAVI. These findings identify variables that warrant attention in targeted interventions.
HIV; HIV prevention; Sexual behavior; STDs; STD prevention
Methamphetamine is a major contributor to HIV transmission among men who have sex with men (MSM). Recent studies show that up to one-third of methamphetamine-using MSM (MUMSM) inject the drug. We developed a behavioral intervention for MUMSM to decrease unprotected anal intercourse and increase awareness of parenteral HIV transmission risk. This 6-session (3 in-person, 3 by telephone) modular intervention was designed to be tailored to participants’ HIV (+/-) and injection drug user ([IDU] yes/no) status. We present results of formative research used to evaluate the content and to assess feasibility and acceptability of this individual-level HIV risk-reduction intervention.
HIV research clinic in a high MSM and methamphetamine prevalence neighborhood.
Avoiding Risks from Methamphetamine-Use (ARM-U) is a brief toolbox intervention that allows counselors to select modules that suit a client’s individual risk profile and intervention needs employing motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioral theory. We evaluated the format and content of the intervention through focus groups and pre-testing of the entire intervention using volunteers from the target population stratified into four groups (HIV+/IDU, HIV-/IDU, HIV+/non-IDU, HIV-/non-IDU). Four individuals in each stratum were recruited to undergo the intervention and complete a satisfaction survey at the end of each in-person session.
In total, 25 MUMSM attended one of five focus groups. Participants thought all proposed intervention topics were important and could aid in reducing sexual risk behaviors among MUMSM. However, the neurocognitive effects of methamphetamine were reported to be a barrier to practicing safer sex, condom use negotiation or HIV status disclosure. Fifteen (94%) of 16 participants completed all 6 sessions and the satisfaction survey. On average, participants felt the intervention was useful for MUMSM, made them contemplate and move toward behavior change, and would recommend the program to their peers.
Based on our formative research, we revised the ARM-U intervention to emphasize pre-planning to avoid combining methamphetamine use and sex or develop strategies to avoid sex risk following methamphetamine use. We also increased emphasis on referrals for care and other requested services. Future efficacy trials are needed to evaluate the intervention’s ability to reduce HIV-associated risk behaviors.
HIV; injection drug use; MSM; methamphetamine; formative research; behavioral intervention.
To measure substance use across racial and ethnic subgroups of HIV-positive men who have sex with men (MSM), model associations between drug use and unsafe sex, and characterize users of the substances most strongly associated with risky sexual behavior.
Cross-sectional survey at the pre-intervention time point of the Positive Connections behavioral intervention trial.
HIV-positive men of color who have sex with men living in six US cities.
675 trial participants.
Self-reported drug and alcohol use and sexual behaviors.
We found high prevalence of substance use in this sample, with differences across racial and ethnic groups. Compared to Hispanic, African America, and men of other or mixed races/ethnicities, Caucasian men were most likely to report use of stimulants (30%), methamphetamines (27%), and amyl nitrite inhalants (“poppers”, 46%) with anal sex. African American men reported crack/cocaine use in the highest proportion (38%) among the four groups. While many drugs were individually associated with serodiscordant unprotected anal intercourse (SDUAI), only alcohol quantity and poppers with sex were retained in a multivariate model. More frequent poppers use was associated with more reported instances of SDUAI, adjusted for increased anal sex. Men who used poppers were more likely to be white, have completed more education, and have slightly higher income than non-users. Poppers users also reported lower peer norms and self-efficacy for condom use. In a multiple logistic regression model including these psychosocial factors, only poppers use (vs non-use OR = 2.46, CI: 1.55, 3.94) and condom self-efficacy (1 sd increase on scale OR = .58, CI: .46, .73) were significantly associated with SDUAI.
These results, from a large sample of HIV-positive MSM of color, highlight the HIV transmission importance of drugs used specifically in conjunction with sex.
Homosexuality; Male; Street Drugs; HIV Seropositivity; Sexual Behavior
Black men who have sex with men (MSM) are disproportionately affected with HIV in the US. Limited event-specific data have been reported in Black MSM to help understand factors associated with increased risk of infection. Cross-sectional National HIV Behavioral Surveillance Study data from 503 MSM who reported ≥1 male sexual partner in the past year in New York City (NYC) were analyzed. Case-crossover analysis compared last protected and last unprotected anal intercourse (UAI). A total of 503 MSM were enrolled. Among 349 tested for HIV, 18% were positive. Black MSM (N = 117) were more likely to test HIV positive and not know their HIV-positive status than other racial/ethnic groups. Case-crossover analysis of 208 MSM found that men were more likely to engage in protected anal intercourse with a first time partner and with a partner of unknown HIV status. Although Black MSM were more likely to have Black male partners, they were not more likely to have UAI with those partners or to have a partner aged >40 years. In conclusion, HIV prevalence was high among Black MSM in NYC, as was lack of awareness of HIV-positive status. Having a sexual partner of same race/ethnicity or older age was not associated with having UAI among Black MSM.
HIV infection; Sexual partnering; Black men who have sex with men; African American; Unprotected anal intercourse
Research on the association between health insurance coverage and sexual risk behavior among men who have sex with men (MSM) is sparse. We hypothesized that MSM with health insurance would be less likely to engage in risky sexual behavior based on previous research showing that insured persons increase contact with providers which can improve health knowledge, decrease tendency to engage in unhealthy behaviors, and raise awareness about health risks. As part of a study testing an online HIV prevention intervention, we collected information on health insurance and sexual behavior from MSM (n=650). Overall, men with health insurance had a 28% reduced prevalence of unprotected anal intercourse male partners (UAIMP) in the 90 days prior to the survey. Potential explanations include access to healthcare providers and awareness of sexual health. Additional research is needed to identify the mechanism through which health insurance is protective.
HIV; men who have sex with men; health insurance; sexual risk behavior; health behaviors
In the US, Latino MSM are disproportionately affected by HIV, yet there is a paucity of data for this risk group. To this end, we examined data on Latino and non-Latino white MSM who participated across six cities in a 2-year randomized behavioral intervention study—Project EXPLORE. At baseline, Latinos reported significantly more serodiscordant unprotected anal intercourse (SDUA) than non-Latinos. Longitudinal predictors of SDUA included marijuana, poppers, amphetamines and heavy drinking, as well as lower self-efficacy, poorer communication skills, weaker safe-sex norms and more enjoyment of risky sex. For HIV infection, Latinos had significantly higher seroconversion rate over follow-up than non-Latinos. Longitudinal predictors of seroconversion among Latinos included poppers and SDUA. Intervention effects did not significantly differ between Latino and non-Latinos. Findings support HIV intervention work with Latino MSM that includes skills training/counseling to address attitudes about safe sex and impact of substance use on HIV-risk behavior and acquisition.
Hispanic/Latino; MSM; HIV prevention; AIDS/HIV; High-risk sexual behavior; Substance use
To determine frequencies of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) and its demographic and mental health correlates among HIV-positive men who have sex with men (HIV+ MSM).
Cross-sectional analysis of baseline data collected among 593 HIV+ MSM enrolled in the Positive Connections intervention. Data included frequencies of CSA, demographics, and the number of total sex and anal sex contacts contextualized by partners' HIV infection status and condom use.
Of participants, 47% reported CSA, with 32% reporting CSA occurring ‘often’ or ‘sometimes.’ Men reporting CSA were more likely to be Latino (OR: 2.6) or African-American (OR: 1.8) versus white study participants (p=.0007). CSA reported ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’ was associated with increased total sexual contacts (rate ratio: 1.3, for each; p < 0.0001) and unsafe anal intercourse contacts (rate ratio: 1.5 and 2.0, respectively; p < 0.0001) compared with men not reporting CSA.
History of CSA is highly prevalent among HIV+ MSM engaging in risk behavior, and appears more common among men of color. Findings suggest that HIV+ MSM reporting CSA are at significantly increased risk for acquiring or transmitting HIV or STI due to increased contact rates versus men without CSA histories.
As HIV infection continues unabated, there is a need for effective interventions targeting at-risk men who have sex with men (MSM). Engaging MSM online where they meet sexual partners is critical for HIV prevention efforts.
A randomized controlled trial (RCT) conducted online among U.S. MSM recruited from several gay sexual networking websites assessed the impact of 2 HIV prevention videos and an HIV prevention webpage compared to a control condition for the study outcomes HIV testing, serostatus disclosure, and unprotected anal intercourse (UAI) at 60-day follow-up. Video conditions were pooled due to reduced power from low retention (53%, n = 1,631). No participant incentives were provided.
Follow-up was completed by 1,631 (53%) of 3,092 eligible men. In the 60 days after the intervention, men in the pooled video condition were significantly more likely than men in the control to report full serostatus disclosure (‘asked and told’) with their last sexual partner (OR 1.32, 95% CI 1.01–1.74). Comparing baseline to follow-up, HIV-negative men in the pooled video (OR 0.70, 95% CI 0.54–0.91) and webpage condition (OR 0.43, 95% CI 0.25–0.72) significantly reduced UAI at follow-up. HIV-positive men in the pooled video condition significantly reduced UAI (OR 0.38, 95% CI 0.20–0.67) and serodiscordant UAI (OR 0.53, 95% CI 0.28–0.96) at follow-up.
Findings from this online RCT of MSM recruited from sexual networking websites suggest that a low cost, brief digital media intervention designed to engage critical thinking can increase HIV disclosure to sexual partners and decrease sexual risk. Effective, brief HIV prevention interventions featuring digital media that are made widely available may serve as a complementary part of an overall behavioral and biomedical strategy for reducing sexual risk by addressing the specific needs and circumstances of the target population, and by changing individual knowledge, motivations, and community norms.
Serosorting (i.e., engaging in unprotected sex with partners known to be of the same serostatus) can be a difficult process for men who have sex with men (MSM) who frequently make assumptions about their partners’ serostatus. This process can be further complicated by a partner’s dishonesty as well as other individual and contextual factors. The present study specifically examined how assumptions of serostatus made about unknown serostatus partners impact on the sexual behavior of 110 alcohol-abusing HIV-positive MSM. Although previous research has shown that HIV-positive MSM are more likely to serosort with other known HIV-positive men than with known HIV-negative men, our data suggest that unprotected sex behavior may not be specifically driven by whether or not they made assumptions of seroconcordance or serodiscordance. The types of assumptions these HIV-positive MSM made about their unknown status sexual partners and the basis for such assumptions were also examined. Owing to the ambiguities involved in assumptions of a partner’s serostatus in sexual encounters, the “unknown status” partner category is analytically distinct from “known status” categories, and needs to be more fully explored because of its impact on perceived serosorting, rather than actual serosorting, among HIV-positive men.
There is a rising trend in high risk sexual behaviour among men who have sex with men (MSM), with concomitant use of recreational drugs. Activities include fisting and unprotected anal intercourse with a partner who is HIV serodiscordant or of unknown status. We describe three cases of HIV positive MSM who have recently attended our unit as a result of complications secondary to fisting.
In India men who have sex with men (MSM) are stigmatized, understudied, and at high risk for HIV. Understanding the impact of psychosocial issues on HIV risk behavior and HIV infection can help shape culturally relevant HIV prevention interventions. Peer outreach workers recruited 210 MSM in Chennai who completed an interviewer-administered psychosocial assessment battery and underwent HIV testing and counseling. More than one fifth (46/210) reported unprotected anal intercourse in the past 3 months, 8% tested positive for HIV, and 26% had previously participated in an HIV prevention intervention. In a multivariable logistic-regression model controlling for age, MSM subpopulation (kothi, panthi, or double-decker), marital status, and religion, significant predictors of any unprotected anal intercourse were being less educated (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = .54; p = .009), not having previously participated in an HIV prevention program (AOR = 3.75; p = .05), having clinically significant depression symptoms (AOR = 2.8; p = .02), and lower self-efficacy (AOR = .40; p < .0001). Significant predictors of testing positive for HIV infection were: being less educated (AOR = .53; .05) and not currently living with parent(s) (AOR = 3.71; p = .05). Given the prevalence of HIV among MSM, efforts to reach hidden subpopulations of MSM in India are still needed. Such programs for MSM in India may need to address culturally-relevant commonly co-occurring psychosocial problems to maximize chances of reducing risk for infection.
Much of our understanding of the association between the Sexual Compulsivity Scale (SCS; Kalichman et al., 1994) and sexual risk behavior among men who have sex with men (MSM) has been limited to samples of HIV positive MSM only. Using data from a community-based survey of gay and bisexual men (n = 1214), this analysis sought to further evaluate the association between the SCS and sexual risk behavior. The SCS was significantly associated with a variety of sexual risk behaviors, including having sex under the influence of club drugs, engaging in unprotected anal sex (receptive or insertive) with partners of the same and/or different HIV serostatus, identity as a barebacker, intentions to have bareback sex, number of recent sex partners, and temptation for unsafe sex. The SCS was also significantly associated with having engaged in a variety of specialized sexual behaviors (i.e., fetishes), many of which can increase HIV transmission risks. Finally, in multivariate analyses, the SCS significantly predicted unprotected sex with a non-main partner even when controlling for race, HIV serostatus, age, identity as a barebacker, and club drug use. These data indicate that the SCS may be able to serve as an indicator to detect HIV-associated sexual risk behavior in community-based samples of gay and bisexual men.
sexual compulsivity; gay and bisexual men; sexual risk behavior; HIV; club drugs; specialized sexual behavior; fetishes
Studies have found that between 14% and 46% of US men who have sex with men (MSM) consistently report “barebacking” behavior (i.e., intentional unprotected anal intercourse) with other men. This is of public health significance because MSM continue to constitute more than 50% of new HIV infections in the USA. Men who self-identify as barebackers may represent a different and unique subset of MSM with distinct HIV prevention needs. In 2007, 227 HIV seronegative MSM recruited through modified respondent-driven sampling completed an interviewer-administered survey which assessed barebacker identity (i.e., personally identifying with the barebacker scene), demographics, sexual risk behaviors, psychosocial variables, and drug/alcohol use. Bivariate and multivariable logistic regression procedures were used to examine predictors of barebacker identity in relation to HIV risk behavior. Overall, 31% of participants identified as a barebacker. In bivariate analyses, lower education (OR = 1.76; 95% CI = 0.99–3.13; p < 0.05), a current drinking problem (OR = 2.34, 95% CI = 1.29–4.23; p < 0.01), higher levels of HIV treatment optimism (OR = 1.06; 95% CI = 1.01–1.12; p < 0.05), meeting sexual partners at private sex parties (OR = 2.47; 95% CI = 1.28–4.74; p < 0.01) or at bars/cubs (OR = 1.97; 95% CI = 1.10–3.52; p < 0.05), and engaging in serodiscordant unprotected insertive anal sex (OR = 3.42; 95% CI = 1.27–9.21; p < 0.01) significantly predicted barebacker identification compared to those with no barebacker identification. In a multivariable model, barebackers were more likely to screen in for alcohol abuse (adjusted OR = 2.16; 95% CI = 1.09–4.27; p < 0.05) and engage in serodiscordant unprotected insertive anal sex (adjusted OR = 3.17; 95% CI = 1.09–9.20; p < 0.05) compared to their non-barebacker counterparts. No significant differences were found in serodiscordant unprotected receptive anal sex between barebackers and non-barebackers. These findings suggest that barebacker identity is related to intentional HIV sexual risk taking and alcohol abuse. Furthermore, strategic positioning (i.e., engaging in insertive rather than receptive sex) might be associated with barebacker identification and may indicate a harm-reduction strategy being used among some HIV-uninfected MSM to reduce their risk of becoming infected. Additional research is warranted to understand the social identity of barebacking among MSM in order to develop more nuanced prevention strategies.
HIV/AIDS; STIs; MSM; Bareback; Prevention
We assessed changes in sexual behavior among men who have sex with men (MSM), before and for several years after HIV diagnosis, accounting for adoption of a variety of seroadaptive practices.
We collected self-reported sexual behavior data every 3 months from HIV-positive MSM at various stages of HIV infection. To establish population level trends in sexual behavior, we used negative binomial regression to model the relationship between time since diagnosis and several sexual behavior variables: numbers of (a) total partners, (b) potentially discordant partners (PDP; i.e., HIV-negative or unknown-status partners), (c) PDPs with whom unprotected anal intercourse (UAI) occurred, and (d) PDPs with whom unprotected insertive anal intercourse (uIAI) occurred.
A total of 237 HIV-positive MSM contributed 502 interviews. UAI with PDPs occurred with a mean of 4.2 partners in the 3 months before diagnosis. This declined to 0.9 partners/3 months at 12 months after diagnosis, and subsequently rose to 1.7 partners/3 months at 48 months, before falling again to 1.0 partners/3 months at 60 months. The number of PDPs with whom uIAI occurred dropped from 2.4 in the pre-diagnosis period to 0.3 partners/3 months (an 87.5% reduction) by 12 months after enrollment, and continued to decline over time.
Within months after being diagnosed with HIV, MSM adopted seroadaptive practices, especially seropositioning, where the HIV-positive partner was not in the insertive position during UAI, resulting in a sustained decline in the sexual activity associated with the highest risk of HIV transmission.
Beliefs that HIV treatments reduce HIV transmission risks are related to increases in sexual risk behaviors, particularly unprotected anal intercourse among men who have sex with men (MSM). Changes in unprotected anal intercourse and prevention-related treatment beliefs were recently reported for surveys of mostly white gay men collected in 1997 and 2005. The current study extends this previous research by replicating the observed changes in behaviors and beliefs in anonymous community surveys collected in 2006. Results indicated clear and consistent increases in beliefs that HIV treatments reduce HIV transmission risks and increases in unprotected anal intercourse. These changes were observed for both HIV positive and non-HIV positive men. African American men endorsed the belief that HIV treatments protect against HIV transmission to a greater degree than White men. Results show that HIV prevention messages need to be updated to educate MSM about the realities of HIV viral concentrations and HIV transmission risks.