AIDS and Behavior

, Volume 22, Issue 6, pp 1849–1857 | Cite as

Perceived HIV Prevalence Accuracy and Sexual Risk Behavior Among Gay, Bisexual, and Other Men Who Have Sex with Men in the United States

  • Stephen SullivanEmail author
  • Rob Stephenson
Original Paper


Interventions that promote HIV prevention and reduce sexual risk-taking among men who have sex with men (MSM) are needed. Decisions surrounding sexual behavior and prevention are in part shaped by how individuals gauge HIV risk, which may be influenced by perceptions of local HIV prevalence. Using an online sample of self-reported HIV-negative adult MSM (n = 1477, mean age = 45) recruited in 2015, we examine associations between accuracy of perceived local HIV prevalence and self-reported condomless anal sex (CAS) and HIV testing. Men who perceived their local HIV prevalence to be higher than actual were more likely to be recently HIV tested and less likely to engage in CAS. Men who estimated their local prevalence to be lower than actual were more likely to engage in CAS and less likely to have recently tested for HIV. Results suggest that how accurately MSM understand their HIV environment may contribute to prevention decisions.


HIV prevalence Perceived prevalence Sexual risk HIV testing 


Intervenciones que promueven la prevención de VIH y reducen los comportamientos sexuales de riesgo entre hombres que tienen sexo con hombres (HSH) son necesarias. Las decisiones sobre el comportamiento sexual y de prevención están en parte determinadas por como los individuos miden el riesgo de VIH, el cual está influenciado por la percepción de la prevalencia local de VIH. Utilizando una muestra en línea de HSH adultos, auto-reportados como VIH negativos (n = 1477, edad promedio = 45) y reclutados en el 2015, se examinó las asociaciones entre la percepción exacta de la prevalencia local de VIH y el auto-reporte del sexo anal sin preservativo, así también como la prueba de VIH. Los hombres que percibieron que la prevalencia local de VIH era más alta que la actual eran más probables de haber recibido una prueba de VIH recientemente y eran menos probables de tener conductas de sexo anal sin protección. Los hombres quienes estimaron que la prevalencia local de VIH era más baja que la actual, eran más probables de tener conductas de sexo anal sin protección y menos probable de haber recibido un test de VIH. Estos resultados sugieren que la precisión en que los HSH perciben su entorno de VIH pueden contribuir a tomar decisiones de prevención.


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare they have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in our study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Health Behavior and Biological Sciences, School of Nursing and the Center for Sexuality and Health DisparitiesUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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