Objective: To examine the role of antiretroviral treatment related perceptions relative to other clinical and psychosocial factors associated with sexual risk taking in HIV positive men who have sex with men (MSM).
Methods: Participants were recruited from ambulatory HIV clinics in Montreal. Information on sociodemographic factors, health status, antiretroviral treatment related perceptions, and sexual behaviours was collected using a self administered questionnaire. At-risk sexual behaviour was defined as at least one occurrence of unprotected insertive or receptive anal intercourse in the past 6 months. Multivariate logistic regression was performed to evaluate the associations between at-risk sexual behaviour and covariates.
Results: 346 subjects participated in the study. Overall, 34% of subjects were considered at risk; 43% of sexually active subjects (n = 274). At-risk sexual behaviour was associated with two antiretroviral treatment related perceptions: (1) taking antiretroviral treatment reduces the risk of transmitting HIV (adjusted odds ratio (OR), 2.10; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.16 to 3.80); and (2) there is less safer sex practised by MSM because of HIV treatment advances (OR, 1.82; CI, 1.14 to 2.90). Other factors, however, were more strongly associated with risk. These were: (1) safer sex fatigue (OR, 3.23; CI, 1.81 to 5.78); (2) use of “poppers” during sexual intercourse (OR, 6.28; CI, 2.43 to 16.21); and (3) reporting a greater proportion of HIV positive anal sex partners, compared with reporting no HIV positive anal sex partners: (a) <50% HIV positive (OR, 16.79; CI, 4.70 to 59.98); (b) ⩾50% HIV positive (OR, 67.67; CI, 15.43 to 296.90).
Conclusion: Despite much emphasis on HIV treatment related beliefs as an explanation for sexual risk taking in MSM, this concern may play a relatively minor part in the negotiation of risk by HIV positive MSM. Serosorting, safer sex fatigue, and the use of poppers appear to be more important considerations in understanding the sexual risk behaviours of HIV positive MSM.
- HAART, highly active antiretroviral therapy
- MSM, men who have sex with men
- STIs, sexually transmitted infections
- antiretroviral treatment
- HIV positive MSM
- sexual behaviours
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Conflict of interest: None.
Ethical approval: The study protocol and questionnaire were reviewed and approved by the McGill University Faculty of Medicine Institutional Review Board.