“Sometimes People Let Love Conquer Them”: How Love and Trust in Relationships among MSM Impact Perceptions of Sexual Risk and Sexual Decision-Making

Tamar Goldenberg, Emory University
Karen L. Andes, Emory University

Men who have sex with men (MSM) who participate in committed relationships with high levels of love and trust often engage in high-risk sexual behaviors such as frequent unprotected anal intercourse (UAI). We conducted a 10-week longitudinal qualitative study with MSM in order to elucidate how MSM negotiate feelings of love, trust, and intimacy with sexual decision-making. During an in-depth interview (IDI) at baseline, participants built a retrospective timeline of their dating/sexual histories. Participants then completed three relationship diaries during follow-up; these data were extracted and discussed in a debrief IDI. Verbatim transcripts were analyzed as life-stories and thematically coded. Our results indicate that emotions play an influential role in sexual risk-taking through two means: first, by creating cognitive dissonance between perceived and actual HIV/STI risk, and second, by creating “willingness” to take risks despite risk perceptions. HIV/STI prevention interventions should incorporate strategies that address how emotions influence risk-taking.

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Presented in Session 163: HIV-AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases