Do traditional risk factors predict whether men who have sex with men engage in unprotected anal intercourse? The need for locally based research to guide interventions.

Published: December 20, 2010

Abstract

A great deal of research effort has been expended in an effort to identify the variables which most influence men who have sex with men’s (MSM) unsafe sexual behaviors. While a set of predictor variables has emerged, these predict the unsafe behaviors of MSM in some locations but not in others, suggesting the need to investigate the predictive ability of these variables among MSM in previously understudied populations. Therefore, this study examined the ability of previously identified factors to predict unsafe sexual behaviors among MSM in Houston, Texas. Data were collected through a short self-report survey completed by MSM attending the Houston pride festival. The multiethnic participants (N = 109) represented a range of age, educational, and income backgrounds. Fifty-seven percent of the survey respondents had been drunk and/or high in sexual contexts, 19 percent evidenced alcohol dependency, 26 percent reported finding sex partners online and sex with serodiscordant or unknown serostatus partners was common. Compared to men who did not report unprotected anal intercourse (UAI) in the preceding two months, MSM who engaged in UAI were younger and more likely to use alcohol in sexual contexts, meet men online for offline sex, and perceive lower safer sex norms in their community. Although these results were statistically significant, the strength of the relationships was too small to have any practical value. The lack of useful explanatory power underscores the importance of accelerated HIV research that identifies the unique, local factors associated with unsafe sex in other previously understudied populations.

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