HIV Prevention Fatigue: Program Engages Men Who Have Heard It All Before

Bridgemen staff Jared Hemming (left) and Michael Donofrio (right). Photo: Alex Ray
Bridgemen staff Jared Hemming (left) and Michael Donofrio (right). Photo: Alex Ray

With the HIV epidemic well into its fourth decade, many gay and bisexual men in their 30s, 40s and 50s have spent much of their adult lives being bombarded with HIV and safer sex messages. And as a result, they can get tired of hearing and thinking about it.

The research community has a name for this: prevention fatigue, described as "an attitude that HIV prevention messages, programs, outreach, or counseling services have become tiresome," explains Jamila Stockman, MPH, and colleagues in an article about prevention fatigue in San Francisco published in JAIDS.

"Considering that HIV is likely to be with us for decades to come, some amount of prevention fatigue may be inevitable," they conclude. It becomes a problem, they say, if people translate prevention fatigue into riskier behaviors, like forgoing STI and HIV testing, failing to adhere to HIV medication regimens or having unprotected sex with partners whose HIV status they don't know.

"We saw this a lot in the community, primarily among gay men, a real emotional fatigue in maintaining safe sex practices," said Stefan Rowniak, MSN, PhD, an assistant professor at the University of San Francisco and nurse practitioner at San Francisco City Clinic who has conducted research on what he terms safe sex fatigue. "Not only has it been written about a lot, but it's something that I experience on a daily basis working at my clinic; Men who just really feel like they don't want to continue using condoms with everybody for a variety of reasons."

This excerpt was cross-posted with the permission of BETAblog.org. Read the full article.