“The CDC has estimated that HIV diagnosis rates among men having sex with men (MSM) are 60 times the rate in other men and 54 times the rate in women,” said researchers at the University of Illinois. Brian Mustanski, of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Illinois, together with colleagues from Brown University, recently conducted a study to determine what factors posed the greatest risk for HIV contraction in this segment of the population. They stated that between 2001 and 2006, MSM ages 13 to 24 reported the largest increase in sexually transmitted diseases, with black MSM showing a 93% increase themselves. In order to identify who is most vulnerable, the team evaluated a group of MSM from an existing study on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) youth. Over a period of 18 months, the researchers questioned the participants three times and were able to gather data based on 413 specific partnerships.
“This is the first study to our knowledge to use longitudinal data to explore the effects of multiple relationship factors within young MSM across numerous sexual partnerships,” said the researchers. “In this context, the most important predictor of unprotected sex was classifying the relationship as serious. In fact there was almost no unprotected sex occurring in relationships classified as casual. This effect is important because across an 18-month window, 80% of young MSM had at least one serious relationship and nearly one third had three or more serious relationships.” The team noted that this fact alone increased the chances of contracting HIV by eight times. The second biggest risk factor was found in MSM who were forced into having sex, either verbally or physically. The researchers said, “While our results show that HIV risk is associated with serious relationships, this detrimental effect must be interpreted in the context of the other emotional and health benefits that can come with being in a close and positive romantic relationship. Prior research has shown that being in intimate relationships may buffer against stressful life experiences that contribute to physical and mental health problems.”
Mustanski, Brian, Michael E. Newcomb, and Elise M. Clerkin. “Relationship Characteristics and Sexual Risk-taking in Young Men Who Have Sex with Men.” Health 30.5 (2011): 597-605. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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