CHICAGO --- Gay young men in serious relationships are six times more likely to have unprotected sex than those who hook up with casual partners, according to new Northwestern Medicine research.
The findings provide a new direction for prevention efforts in this population who account for nearly 70 percent of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses in adolescents and young adults in the United States and who also have the highest increase in new infections.
"Being in a serious relationship provides a number of mental and physical health benefits, but it also increases behaviors that put you at risk for HIV transmission," said Brian Mustanski, associate professor in medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and lead author of a paper on the research, published online in the journal Health Psychology. "Men who believe a relationship is serious mistakenly think they don't need to protect themselves."
About 80 percent of gay young men who are HIV positive don't know it, because they aren't being tested frequently enough, he noted. "It isn't enough to ask your partner his HIV status," Mustanski said. "Instead, both people in a serious, monogamous couple relationship should go and receive at least two HIV tests before deciding to stop using condoms."
The new Northwestern research shows HIV prevention programs should be directed toward serious relationships rather than the current focus on individuals who hook up in casual relationships.
"We need to do greater outreach to young male couples," said Mustanski, who conducted the research when he was at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "This is one population that has really been left behind. We should be focusing on serious relationships."
|Contact: Marla Paul|