Health research on transgender people has been hampered by the challenges inherent in studying a hard-to-reach, relatively small, and geographically dispersed population. The Internet has the potential to facilitate access to transgender samples large enough to permit examination of the diversity and syndemic health disparities found among this population. In this article, we describe the experiences of a team of investigators using the Internet to study HIV risk behaviors of transgender people in the United States. We developed an online instrument, recruited participants exclusively via websites frequented by members of the target population, and collected data using online quantitative survey and qualitative synchronous and asynchronous interview methods. Our experiences indicate that the Internet environment presents the investigator with some unique challenges and that commonly expressed criticisms about Internet research (e.g., lack of generalizable samples, invalid study participants, and multiple participation by the same subject) can be overcome with careful method design, usability testing, and pilot testing. The importance of both usability and pilot testing are described with respect to participant engagement and retention and the quality of data obtained online.
Internet research; validity; transgender; survey; interviews
Potential items to be included in an HIV Treatment Optimism scale were reviewed by 17 HIV-positive gay and bisexual men (GBM), resulting in a 21-item test instrument. After pilot testing, data were collected from a multi-city sample of high-risk HIV-positive GBM (n = 346), who were currently on treatment and were recruited to attend a two-day sexual health seminar. The scale items were analyzed utilizing Principal Components Analysis and reliability testing. The factor analysis resulted in the development of three separate scales. The Susceptibility scale contained 10 items associated with a belief that HIV is less transmissible while on HIV treatment. The Condom Motivation scale contained five items addressing a decreased motivation to use condoms while on treatment and the Severity scale contained four items associated with a decreased sense of the severity of an HIV diagnosis. Reliability coefficients (α ) and mean inter-item correlations (M) for the three scales were acceptable (Susceptibility, α = 0.86, M = 0.39; Condom Motivation, α = 0.84, M = 0.50; Severity, α = 0.71, M = 0.37). Combined as one scale, the reliability coefficient was respectable (α = 0.76), but the mean inter-item correlation was 0.14. Based on this analysis, use of a single measure was not supported and three separate scales were developed. The scales were equivalent across racial groups except White men were more like to report a decreased motivation to use condoms compared to Black or Latino men. Three separate scales addressing beliefs about the transmissibility of HIV while on treatment (Susceptibility), the quality of life while on HIV treatment (Severity) and the motivation to use condoms consistently while on treatment (Condom Motivation) may be better markers for assessing optimistic beliefs about HIV treatment among HIV-positive GBM.
HIV optimism; gay men; HIV; scale development
This study was designed to examine the impact of HIV treatment optimism on sexual risk among a racially diverse sample of HIV-positive MSM. Survey data were collected from 346 racially diverse HIV-positive MSM. Inclusion criteria: 18 years of age, male, at least one incident of unprotected anal intercourse (UAI) in the last year, currently on treatment. Other variables included demographics, sexual risk, depression, internalized homonegativity, HIV treatment history, alcohol/drug use and beliefs about HIV treatments (Susceptibility to transmit HIV, Severity of HIV infection and Condom Motivation). Those with lower income were more likely to report that HIV was less transmissible. A self-reported decrease in condom motivation was associated with being White, well-educated and increased alcoho/drug use. A decrease in Severity of HIV was associated with better mental health, being non-White and undetectable viral load. Sexual risk appears related to beliefs about how treatment affects the transmissibility of HIV. Race, socioeconomic status, alcoho/drug use, mental health and viral load were also associated with treatment beliefs.
This study examines mediation of the association between social norms and unsafe sexual behavior. Self-report data were collected from 675 HIV-infected men enrolled in a study exploring interventions for HIV risk behavior. Unsafe sex included any unprotected anal sex with HIV-negative or HIV status unknown partners in the last three months. Norms for condom use indirectly influenced unsafe sex through condom self-efficacy and/or safer sex intentions. Additionally, sexual behavior discontrol influenced unsafe sex regardless of other individual or social factors. Our results suggest that interventions consider the combined effects of condom self-efficacy, safer sex intentions, and sexual behavior control.
Theory of Planned Behavior; unsafe sex; social norms; self-efficacy; intentions
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
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
Few behavioral interventions have been conducted to reduce high-risk sexual behavior among HIV-positive Men who have Sex with Men (HIV+MSM). Hence, we lack well-proven interventions for this population.
Positive Connections is a randomized controlled trial (n=675 HIV+MSM) comparing the effects of two sexual health seminars – for HIV+MSM and all MSM – with a contrast prevention video arm. Baseline, 6-, 12- and 18-month follow-up surveys assessed important psychosexual variables and frequency of serodiscordant unprotected anal intercourse (SDUAI).
At post-test, intentions to avoid transmission were significantly higher in the sexual health arms. However, SDUAI frequency decreased equally across all arms, from 15.0 at baseline to 11.5 at 18 months. HIV+MSM engaging in SDUAI at baseline were more likely to leave the study.
Tailoring interventions to HIV+MSM does not appear to increase the effectiveness of HIV prevention. A sexual health approach appears no more effective than video-based HIV prevention.
HIV+MSM; MSM; HIV prevention; behavioral interventions; unsafe sex; prevention for positives
In recent years there has been increased attention in a clinical syndrome characterized by excessive sexual thoughts, sexual urges, and/or sexual behaviors that has many aspects in common with impulse control disorders. This study provides a preliminary examination of the impulsive aspects of this syndrome, Compulsive Sexual Behavior (CSB), as conceptualized by Coleman and colleagues. Sixteen male subjects, 8 CSB patients and 8 non-patient controls, completed psychometric measures of impulsivity and compulsive sexual behavior, a behavioral task designed to assess impulse control (go/no-go task), and underwent diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) procedures. The results indicated that CSB patients were significantly more impulsive; whether measured by psychometric testing or the go/no-go procedure than controls. The results also indicate that CSB patients showed significantly higher superior frontal region mean diffusivity (MD) than controls. A correlational analysis indicated significant associations between impulsivity measures and inferior frontal region fractional anisotrophy (FA) and MD, but no associations with superior frontal region measures. Similar analyses indicated a significant negative association between superior frontal lobe MD and the compulsive sexual behavior inventory. Thus, while CSB patients were more impulsive than controls, the DTI results were not consistent with impulse control disorders.
Compulsive sexual behavior; diffusion tensor imaging; impulsivity; sexual addiction; MRI; brain structure
This study assessed the feasibility of online recruitment of high-risk Latino men who have sex with men (MSM) for HIV prevention survey research and investigated the relationship between Internet use and unsafe sex. Participants (N= 1,026) were Internet-using Latino MSM living in the U.S. recruited using online banner advertisements. Respondents completed a cross-sectional, online survey in English or Spanish. Sample characteristics reflected national statistics within 5%. Nearly all (99%) reported having used the Internet to seek sex with another man. Two-thirds of respondents reported having unprotected anal sex with ≥ 1 man in the last year, 57% of these with multiple partners. Participants reported engaging in anal sex and unprotected anal sex with nearly twice as many men first met online versus offline, but risk proportions did not differ. Internet-based HIV prevention research is possible even with geographically-dispersed minority populations. Efficiency appears the primary risk associated with meeting partners online.
HIV prevention; Internet sex; Latino; men who have sex with men; Men who use the Internet to seek Sex with Men; MISM