Research carried out University of Glasgow suggests that young gay men in Scotland often rely on trust rather than testing as means of ensuring a monogamous partner is HIV negative.
The results were presented in GAYCON 2014, the 5th National Conference for Scotland on Gay and Bisexual Men’s Health and Wellbeing, according to a report by Aidsmap.
Doctoral student, Nicola Boydell, conducted interviews with 30 Scottish gay men aged 18 to 29, asking them to describe what constitutes for them “safer sex.”
A recurring theme in interviews was the desire to stop using condoms in the context of a committed relationship.
“If it was just like a casual thing, I would always use condoms and then if we’re going out like, at the start for like a couple of months depending on the person, we would use a condom and then after that if like we trusted each other, if I trusted him, we wouldn’t,” said one of the interviewees.
While some interviewees stated that for them safer sex included both testing for HIV and using condoms, the latter was often described as depending on the nature of the relationship with the sexual partner.
In the context of a committed monogamous relationship men expressed eagerness to do away with condoms and avoid a need for HIV testing, rather relying on trust only.
Research participants described how they would prefer to forego condoms with a partners based on trust, whilst avoiding HIV testing and discussing rules about monogamy.
Previous research has suggested that up to just over two-third of new HIV infections among men who have sex with men occur in the context of relationship.
Studies also have found that these men are more inclined to use condoms with casual partners but tend to forgo them in a relationship as an expression of trust and intimacy.
However, if partners are not tested for HIV past the test’s “window period”, and they fail to make rules regarding monogamy in order to ensure partners avoid HIV infection, then this indeed can enable the HIV transmission.
The research highlighted that a better understanding of how couples communicate around sex and HIV is needed, in order to provide better HIV prevention interventions for young gay men in relationships, the researcher said.
This could include interventions for couples, such as couple-based HIV testing, which facilitate disclosure of HIV status and negotiation of safer sex.