Objective: To examine the sexually protective role of knowing person(s) with HIV/AIDS (PWHA) by conducting a multidimensional analysis distinguishing the number of PWHA known (by disease status and relationship category) and aspects of the relationship with the closest PWHA (emotional closeness, length of time known, disease status, type of relationship).
Design: Cross-sectional study of white, Latino, and African-American men who have sex with men recruited at street locations in West Hollywood, California, in 1997.
Methods: The analyses conducted with linear regression models focused on men (n = 334) who reported that they were seronegative or of unknown serostatus and thus at risk for HIV infection. Unprotected sex was defined as percentage of anal intercourse partners in the past 12 months with whom unprotected anal intercourse (UAI) occurred at least once.
Results: The number of PWHA known was not associated with the percentage of UAI partners in multivariate or univariate analyses. Greater emotional closeness to a person who was HIV-positive without AIDS was associated with reduced UAI in multivariate models even after excluding participants whose close PWHA was a lover or sex partner. Younger men (18-25 years) knew fewer PWHA, reported less emotional closeness to a PWHA, and had a higher level of UAI than did older men.
Conclusions: Emotional closeness to a seropositive person without AIDS may be a sexually protective factor. The results suggest the possibility that lower levels of emotional closeness to a PWHA may partially underlie the elevated sexual risk behavior of younger men who have sex with men.