Abstract This study is the first to examine the role of partner type in sexual practices of men who have sex with men (MSM) in China. Using cross-sectional self-administered questionnaires (N=692) with MSM in six Chinese cities (Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Xi’an, Dalian and Beijing) in 2008, this paper examines MSM’s sexual practices, particularly condom use with different male and female partner types. We categorise sexual partner relationships into five types: partner/spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, acquaintance, stranger and sex worker and hypothesise that the greater the affective distance between the partners, the greater the likelihood of engaging with intimate act and the lesser likelihood condom use. Results show that respondents had more MSM than heterosexual experiences. Relationships tended to be short-term, multiple (more than two) and concurrent (simultaneously two or more) principally with other men and to a lesser degree with women. Findings reveal that affective distance varied with partner types. Respondents performed more intimate acts (e.g., kissing, caressing) with intimate or stable partners (partner/spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend) than casual or unknown partners (acquaintance, stranger, sex worker). Condom use decreased when the affective distance with a partner increased. We conclude that partner type is a key factor of HIV infection among MSM in China; short-term, multiple and concurrent relationships are clear risk factors. Future research should focus on the subjective varied meanings of relationships, the idea of trust and the dynamics with different relationships to understand HIV infection of MSM in China.
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