“I Consider Being Gay a Very High Risk Factor”: How a Partner’s Gay Identity and Level of Outness Impact Perceptions of Sexual Risk among Men Who Have Sex with Men
Catherine Finneran, Emory University
MSM are the highest-risk group for HIV in the U.S; however, the impact of gay identity on sexual risk is unclear. We conducted a 10-week longitudinal qualitative study with gay and bisexual men to examine how a partner’s outness impacts perceptions of sexual risk. Participants built a timeline of their dating/sexual histories during a baseline in-depth interview (IDI). During follow-up, participants completed three relationship diaries; these data were discussed in a debrief IDI. Verbatim transcripts were thematically coded, comparing partners who were out and partners who were not. Participants perceived partners who were not out as lower risk based on assumptions of lower HIV exposure. However, fewer efforts were made to reduce risk with these partners, resulting in increased risk. HIV prevention for MSM is often directed at gay and bisexual men, but programs and research may improve if recruitment targeted MSM who do not identify as gay or bisexual.