UC San Francisco Study: Gay/Bisexual Men Who Were Sexually Abused as Children More Likely to Engage in Unsafe Sex

According to a study in the April issue of Child Abuse & Neglect, men who have sex with men (MSM) are more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors if they were sexually abused as children. The researchers from the University of California San Francisco's Center for AIDS Prevention (CAPS) found that 20.6 percent of all MSM experienced childhood sexual abuse-a rate higher than prevalence estimates for the general population. The researchers found that greater severity of childhood abuse (more incidents) was associated with higher rates of risky sexual behavior. Two definitions of risky sexual behavior were used: unprotected anal intercourse with a non-primary partner, and unprotected anal intercourse with a male whose HIV status was different from their own.

The telephone sample of MSM in San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles found that men reporting childhood sexual abuse were more likely (24 percent vs. 14 percent) to be HIV- positive. The study also found that men who were sexual abuse survivors had higher rates of sex under the influence of alcohol/drugs, more "one-night stands" and more intimate partner violence.

"These findings clearly indicate that there is a need to consider childhood sexual abuse in developing and delivering HIV prevention interventions," said lead author Jay Paul, PhD. "Messages that emphasize the avoidance of 'sex under the influence' may not be effective for those men whose use of substances may be a form of coping with the disturbing aftermath of early sexual traumatization." Paul said the findings indicate that community services should be reviewed to ensure they offer appropriate referrals to mental health, substance abuse, social and medical services. "The multiple health-related negative consequences of childhood sexual abuse emphasize the need to give this issue appropriate attention," Paul said.

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