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Diminishing Perceived Threat of AIDS and Increasing Sexual Risks of HIV Among Men Who Have Sex with Men, 1997–2015

Abstract

Community-wide awareness that antiretroviral therapies (ART) provides protection against HIV has the potential to increase perceived safety and thereby increase condomless anal sex among men who have sex with men (MSM). Furthermore, reductions in condom use can increase exposure to sexually transmitted infections, which in turn can reduce the protective effects of ART on HIV transmission. The current study extends previous community-based behavioral surveillance research on beliefs regarding use of ART for HIV prevention and sexual practices among MSM. Anonymous cross-sectional community surveys were collected from 1831 men at the same gay pride event in Atlanta, GA four times over nearly two decades; 1997, 2005–2006 (the 2006 survey over-sampled African-Americans to diversify the study), and 2015. Results indicate clear and consistent trends of increasing beliefs that HIV treatments reduce HIV transmission risks, reflecting the dissemination of HIV prevention research findings. Changes in treatment beliefs coincide with increased rates of condomless anal intercourse. Increased beliefs that treatments prevent HIV and increased condomless anal sex were observed for both HIV positive men and men who had not tested HIV positive. Results illustrate the emergence of an era where ART is the focus of HIV prevention and community-held beliefs and behaviors regarding definitions of risk create a new and potentially problematic environment for HIV transmission.

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Funding

This study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse Grant R01-DA033067 and a training grant from the National Institute of Mental Health T32-MH074387.

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Correspondence to Seth C. Kalichman.

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Conflict of Interest

Seth Kalichman has received research grants from the National Institutes of Health and a training grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. Devon Price declares that she has no conflict of interest. Lisa A. Eaton has received research grants from the National Institutes of Health and a training grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. Kaylee Burnham, Matthew Sullivan, Stephanie Finneran, Talea Cornelius and Aerielle Allen declare that she/he has no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed in studies 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.

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Informed consent was obtained from all participants included in this study.

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Kalichman, S.C., Price, D., Eaton, L.A. et al. Diminishing Perceived Threat of AIDS and Increasing Sexual Risks of HIV Among Men Who Have Sex with Men, 1997–2015. Arch Sex Behav 46, 895–902 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-016-0934-9

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Keywords

  • HIV prevention
  • HIV treatment
  • Antiretroviral therapies (ART)
  • Sexual behavior