Young Gay Men Represent 70% of New HIV Cases

“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 Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • marsh


    September 16th, 2011 at 3:41 AM

    serious relationship or casual sex, protection is required. just because you are in a serious relationship does not mean that the virus is gonna say “okay,so you guys are in a serious relationship so I won’t hurt you”, right?!

  • Artie


    September 16th, 2011 at 2:23 PM

    How disappointing that those of us who consider ourselves to be gay men still, after all of these years, have not learned that SAFE sex means more than just THINKING that our partners have been monogamous. It is about knowing and protecting ourselves.

  • Reita


    September 16th, 2011 at 5:10 PM

    We’ve all heard this theory before but never have I seen proving the legitimacy of it. I wonder if this is due to the mentality of gay men (maybe they don’t feel safe sex is important?) or if it is because of the way that homosexuals perform sexual intercourse.

    When I relationship becomes more serious, it is natural to trust your partner more and more. One of these trusts is likely to be that your partner is truthful about not having any STDs. And this is where it gets tricky because I disagree with the people above who have commented about how you should always practice safe sex.

    Yes, safe sex is important in a casual relationship where you don’t fully trust your partner. However, as a relationship gets serious there will come a point where you can’t progress as a couple without fully trusting one another. If think you’re in a serious relationship but don’t trust your partner is telling the truth about STDs, something is wrong!

  • Gavin Franklin

    Gavin Franklin

    September 16th, 2011 at 7:01 PM

    More reasons for people to resist gay marriages and making the society more homosexual-friendly. They need to communicate to and ensure that gay associations or if they have something like that will take up awareness campaigns and advise the members of the gay community about this.

  • Eric


    September 17th, 2011 at 6:25 AM

    @ Gavin- how narrow minded! How does restricting gay marriage make these numbers get any better?! If anything one would think that allowing gay marriage would allow homosexuals to live in caring and giving relationships and to be comfortable in society. To say that we should restrict making society more homosexual friendly is just so sad in this day and time. We are a group that deserves just as much respect as anyone else does, and I hope that some minds continue to open, no matter how many silly closed minded ones there still are.

  • dean l.

    dean l.

    September 17th, 2011 at 1:15 PM

    “I wonder if this is due to the mentality of gay men (maybe they don’t feel safe sex is important?) or if it is because of the way that homosexuals perform sexual intercourse.”

    @Reita: The mentality of gay men? What the heck does that even mean?! So you know how ALL GAY MEN think? The entire gay population? Oh wait, no you’re insinuating they all prefer casual unprotected sex. That’s so much better. Obviously you’ve never heard of a gay couple being happily together for decades have you? That would blow that little theory right out the water.

    Get it into your head. Gay men are not a species apart. They are human beings just like you and me, no different.

    The gay community is just like the heterosexual one in respect to casual sex. Some will be responsible about sex and practice safe sex, and some won’t give a damn. Safe sex can be performed if they use condoms and the risks minimized if there’s no exchange of body fluids, same as heterosexuals. Simple as that. It’s not the way they perform sexual intercourse. Newsflash: some heterosexuals have anal sex too if that’s what you’re referring to. And trust issues are the same for homosexual relationships as they are for heterosexual ones.

    Many in the gay community have watched their friends die of AIDS. If anything they are way more aware of the consequences than most heterosexuals are. So stop talking about them as if they are a breed apart. It’s offensive and makes you look ignorant.

  • Kole


    September 19th, 2011 at 3:48 PM

    Sadly it looks like the educational lectures of the past thirty years have not done any good in this community. The numbers elsewhere are shrinking while those in the gay community are continuing to rise. Do we need to change the message or the way that it is delivered?

  • f.f.j


    September 20th, 2011 at 6:22 PM

    The best way to avoid HIV is to simply not have sex with someone who you are not 100% sure is in the clear. If you’re not sure, tell them you’re not interested until they go to a doctor and get checked out. It’s not worth the risk. Here’s a rhyme for you: “Not tested? Not interested.”

  • Nigel S.

    Nigel S.

    September 20th, 2011 at 6:40 PM

    Everyone knows that condoms prevent pregnancy, and those who don’t shouldn’t be reproducing in the first place. What a handful AREN’T aware of is that they also reduce the chance of STD’s sharply. I keep myself free from STD’s by making sure I know the sexual history of a woman I plan to sleep with and by wearing condoms.

    Is it rude to ask? Yes, it’s extremely rude- in some women’s eyes. I see it as self-preservation.

  • Nathan Shotts

    Nathan Shotts

    September 21st, 2011 at 4:39 PM

    @Gavin–I cannot believe your homophobia and ignorance. The spread of STD’s caused by people who are incapable of taking care of their sexual health, not homosexuals. There are plenty of straight men and straight women who suffer from HIV and I’m certain you just offended all of them. Go back to the 17th century where you belong.

  • Audrey West

    Audrey West

    September 21st, 2011 at 5:13 PM

    @Reita: The only difference between gay people and straight people is the sex they are naturally attracted to. Everything beyond that is stereotyping and lies created and spread by the clueless in society. There is no “gay mentality” like you said and there are absolutely no STD’s that are spread strictly through homosexual relations. Give tolerance a whirl instead of bias.

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