Objective: To examine whether disclosure of HIV-positive status to sex partners at risk for HIV infection is associated with safer sex practices and to examine the prevalence and correlates of specific disclosure/sexual behavior patterns.
Methods: Cross-sectional assessment of 206 HIV-positive men (41% homosexual, 35% bisexual, 24% heterosexual) sampled randomly at an outpatient HIV clinic in Los Angeles, who reported that their most recent sex partner was HIV-negative or of unknown serostatus. Unsafe sex was defined as unprotected anal or vaginal intercourse with that partner.
Results: Twenty-five percent of the men engaged in unsafe sex, and 48% of the total sample withheld disclosure from the partner. The prevalence of safer sex was not significantly higher among disclosers than among nondisclosers (unadjusted odds ratio = 1.29; 95% confidence interval: 0.69-2.45), and disclosure was not significantly associated with safer sex in any of 25 demographic or partner subgroups examined in the study. In the full sample, 40% of the men disclosed and engaged in safer sex (informed protection), 35% withheld disclosure and engaged in safer sex (uninformed protection), 12% informed their partner and engaged in unsafe sexual behavior (informed exposure), and 13% withheld disclosure and engaged in unsafe sex (uninformed exposure). Risky behavior patterns were associated with using alcohol/drugs before sex, having an HIV-unknown partner, being less emotionally involved with one's partner, and testing seropositive in the previous 3 years.
Conclusions: Interventions for seropositive men that focus primarily on increasing disclosure of serostatus to sex partners may not reduce the prevalence of unsafe sex. Interventions are needed to address the social and psychologic processes that give rise to risky behavior patterns in HIV-infected men. Improved substance abuse counseling also may be needed.
(C) 2001 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.