Young African-American (AA) men who have sex with men (YAAMSM) have experienced the greatest proportional increase in new HIV cases compared with other groups. Bridging sexual partnerships between YAAMSM and older aged cohorts with higher rates of primary HIV infection has emerged as an important independent risk factor for the development of HIV. We explored reasons young AAMSM cite for being attracted to and seeking an older partner and the interpersonal needs met within older sexual partnerships.
Seventeen in-depth semistructured qualitative interviews were conducted in YAAMSM residing in a midsized urban city with high HIV prevalence. Two coders independently evaluated transcribed data to identify/collapse codes that emerged. We analyzed data using categorical and contextualizing analytic methods.
Two themes emerged from the text for seeking an older sexual partner: the emotional maturity the older partner represented and the ability of the older partner to expose the younger partner to more life experiences. In addition, two themes emerged around attraction: support and physical attractiveness of the older partner. Few men described seeking age-discordant relationships for the sole purpose of exchange sex. Older partners during first same-sex experience helped younger partners sort through sexual position and how to perform in relationships.
These interviews suggest that YAAMSM may be seeking older partners to fulfill desires to be in a stable, emotionally mature relationship and for exposure in the larger community. Prevention strategies aimed at targeting adolescent MSM age-discordant relationships will need to address the interpersonal needs met within older sexual partnerships.
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