Sexual Health Communication: Young Gay Men and Their Friends

Matt Mutchler, AIDS Project Los Angeles
Social and Behavioral

Background: It is crucial to prevent the further transmission of HIV infection among young gay men (YGM).One way to reduce behaviors that may transmit HIV among YGM is to foster strong sexual communication skills with their sexual partners. However, we do not know enough about the content and quality of sexual health communication between YGM and their friends. Friendships with other YGM and heterosexual females are particularly important sources of support for YGM. Thus, our study explores how sexual health communication between YGM and their best gay male and best heterosexual female friends may be related to healthier sexual lives among the YGM.

Methods: This study is guided by the theories of planned behavior and sexual scripts. We will purposefully sample gay male participants with best gay male or best heterosexual female friends and will conduct in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 24 dyads (12 gay male/best gay male friend dyads and 12 gay male/ best heterosexual female dyads).Our sampling matrix consists of 6 Caucasian, 12 (4 English-speaking and 4 Spanish-speaking)Latino, and 6 African American dyads matched by race/ethnicity. Participants for the study will be recruited at gay venues and invited to participate in a series of interviews: first as a dyad and second, individually. Participants will also complete a brief quantitative survey including items on friendship characteristics, sexual risk, and communication regarding sexual health issues.

Expected Results: The findings from this study will have important implications, not only forYGM in LosAngeles, but also among similar populations at risk for HIV infection in California and nationally. We expect to discover how young gay men talk about sexual health issues (or do not) differently with their gay male versus heterosexual female friends and by race/ethnicity.

Conclusion: We will use the findings to: learn about the topics of sexual health communication that YGM discuss with their best gay male and heterosexual female friends;form an HIV prevention intervention that targets friendship dyads; and assess receptivity to HIV intervention topics and formats among YGM and their best friends.