Eurosupport V: sexual health in a group of HIV-positive men who have sex with men (MSM)

Published: January 1, 2008

Eurosupport V: sexual health in a group of HIV-positive men who have sex with men (MSM)

Abstract

Background:  Sexual health is an integral part of overall health status and therefore may contribute to subjective well-being. Occurrence of sexual risk behaviour, sexually transmitted infections (STI), sexual traumatisation and sexual functioning are all important indicators for sexual health.
Within the Eurosupport project, a research program implemented in 13 European countries (including 4 new member states), we assessed sexual health in a group of HIV+ men having sex with men (MSM).

Methods: An anonymous standardized self-reported questionnaire was distributed through the participating HIV treatment centres to assess data on sexual health retrospectively and cross-sectionally. Ethical approval and informed consent were obtained. Sexual risk behaviour was defined as ‘having had unprotected anal intercourse at least once in the past 6 months’. Treatment for STI as well as sexual traumatisation was assessed as dichotomous variables. Satisfaction with sexual functioning was scored on a scale from 0 (no satisfaction) to 10 (complete satisfaction).

Results: The sample consisted of 672 HIV+ MSM. In the past 6 months, 37% displayed sexual risk behaviour and 15% received treatment for STI. 15% of the respondents felt pressured, forced or intimidated into unwanted sexual activities at some time. Respondents rated their satisfaction with sexual functioning on several aspects of sexual functioning. For sexual desire, the mean score was 6.11, for sexual arousal 6.33, and for orgasm quality 6.74. 15% of the respondents experienced pain while having sex at least sometimes. The use of erection enhancing medication was found to be significantly correlated with sexual risk behaviour (p=.000).

Conclusions: Our data show that many European HIV-positive MSM perceive their sexual health as impaired. More attention in clinical HIV care on these topics and tailored counselling for those in need may contribute to improved sexual health among HIV-positive MSM, which ultimately may positively influence onward HIV transmission.

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