HIV infected Slovenian men who have sex with men tend to protect their sexual partners, however many struggle with disclosure of their serostatus

Published: July 22, 2010

HIV infected Slovenian men who have sex with men tend to protect their sexual partners, however many struggle with disclosure of their serostatus

A. Lamut1, J. Toma?ic2, T. Vovko2, R. Mur?ic3, I. Klavs1

1National Public Health Institute, AIDS/STI/HAI Unit, Communicable Diseases Centre, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 2Infectious Diseases Clinic, University Clinical Centre Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 3Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana, Department of Etnology and Cultural Anthropology, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Background: In the context of the recent increase of newly diagnosed HIV cases among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Slovenia and the important role of “positive prevention”, the purpose was to improve understanding of the influence of HIV diagnosis on their quality of life and sexual behaviour.
Methods: Recruitment of a convenience sample of HIV positive MSM through the national HIV/AIDS treatment site started in January 2010. By 1st February 13 in-depth, semi-structured interviews were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. Preliminary analysis was conducted according to the grounded theory approach.
Results: After diagnosis, majority experienced “shock”, stopped having sex and some had suicidal thoughts or eating disorders. Many, regardless of age or social status, fearing stigmatization and social exclusion, had not disclosed their serostatus to anyone. However, most resumed “regular life”, which some described as “not much has changed” and some even “my life became more active”. Although a small minority had not yet resumed sex, majority became sexually active again, reported no problems with sexual arousal, strong “responsibility” for not infecting their sexual partners and consistent condom use during anal sex. Some also emphasized the importance of their low viral load due to HAART in protecting partners. Minority did not disclose their serostatus to their steady partners nor did the majority to casual sexual partners, due to fear of sexual rejection or “ruining the moment” of sexual intimacy, respectively. Many emphasized their satisfaction with the support of their physician and the contribution of HAART to their physical wellbeing.
Conclusions: The support of physicians and HAART enabled the majority of HIV positive MSM to resume a more normal life. Further investigation of different individual, interpersonal and contextual factors contributing to disclosure of one’s serostatus and protecting their sexual partners is needed to inform “positive prevention” including improved psychosocial support.

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