While individual determinants of HIV risk among MSM have been widely studied, there is limited understanding of how relational characteristics determine sexual risk. Based on data collected among 300 South African men who have sex with men (MSM) and using cluster analysis, this study developed a typology of four partnership types: the "Race-Economic Similar," "Age-Race-Economic Discordant," "Non-regular Neighbourhood," and "Familiar" partnership types. Support for the meaningfulness of these types was found through associations of these partnership types with participant characteristics and characteristics of the last anal sex event. Furthermore, in a multivariate analysis, only partnership type independently predicted whether the last anal sex event was unprotected. Findings of the study illustrate the importance of taking into account the relational context in understanding unprotected sexual practices and present ways to target intervention efforts as well as identify relationship specific determinants of unprotected sex.
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