Examining the role of relationship characteristics and dynamics on sexual risk behavior among gay male couples Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/4t64gq80n

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  • Recent estimates indicate that over 50% of gay men acquire HIV from their main sexual partners while in their relationship (Sullivan et al., 2009). Despite this statistic, the majority of research has focused on individual factors as predictors of unprotected anal intercourse (UAI) and not on relationship factors. The few studies that have examined relationship factors indicate these dynamics are important for better understanding HIV risk among gay male couples. The present study examined how relationship factors of trust, relationship commitment, investment in sexual agreements and other characteristics were associated with risky sexual behaviors among gay male couples in Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington. A cross-sectional study design paired with a standard, reciprocal dyadic collection method was used. Data were collected and analyzed from a convenience sample of 142 gay male couples. Descriptive statistics, dyad-level logistic regression, and multilevel modeling to estimate actor-partner effects were used to examine the research hypotheses. Findings indicate that less than half of the couples had a sexual agreement and far fewer chose their agreement to be monogamous. In addition, couples who had a less positive attitude about using condoms with non-main partners and perceived more alternatives to their current sexual relationship were significantly more likely to be at higher risk for HIV. In contrast, couples who were employed were significantly less likely to be at higher risk for HIV. Only actor effects were detected to significantly predict HIV risk among the couples; no partner effects were significant. Using themes that emerged from the study findings, important implications for public health are discussed. More specifically, data indicate a need for future HIV prevention strategies to focus on strengthening communication skills and improving relationship characteristics among gay male couples. Both strategies are needed in order to reduce HIV incidence among gay men and their main sexual partners. Areas of future research must emphasize the importance of collecting dyadic data and incorporating theories and measures that focus on relationship dynamics in order to further our understanding of HIV risk among gay male couples.
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