January 31, 2003
A recent issue of AIDS Education and Prevention featured a study that focused on young Asian and Pacific Islander men who have sex with men (API MSMs). The study was designed to measure young API MSMs' risk of contracting HIV. Researchers looked at sexual partner status and demographic factors associated with how often young API MSMs have unprotected sexual intercourse. Sexual intercourse was defined as oral and anal intercourse, as well as any physical contact leading to orgasm.
Researchers recruited 253 young API MSMs (ages 15-25) who reported having same-gender sexual intercourse within the 12 months preceding the study. Participants were selected from gay-identified venues in Seattle and San Diego between May and August 1999. The venues included such places as coffee houses, gay dance clubs, and gay bars. Participants answered questions about their sexual experiences during a 15 minute face-to-face interview administered by the research team.
Participants were also asked to categorize their experiences with "main" or "non-main" partners. Researchers defined a main partner as a "steady boyfriend or lover."
The researchers found that young API MSMs were more likely to have unprotected anal intercourse with a main partner than with a non-main partner. They point out that the absence of protection in steady relationships still involves risks for contracting HIV and suggest developing prevention programs for young API MSMs that target steady relationships as a possible source of HIV transmission. They believe these programs should also promote discussion about sexual risk with main partners, as well as joint-couple HIV testing.
The researchers also believe that contrary to prior findings, young API MSMs are as likely to engage in risky sexual behavior as young MSMs from different ethnic backgrounds.
Since the few programs that serve young API MSMs operate out of select metropolitan areas, the researchers recommend developing national intervention programs to better prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in young API MSM communities.