Journal of sex & marital therapy 2017 07 26() 0 doi 10.1080/0092623X.2017.1359713
Sexual risk reduction among gay male couples has received increasing attention in light of evidence that primary partners account for many – possibly most – new HIV infections. This study examined the content of condom use scripts in interviews conducted with both members of 17 HIV-negative gay male couples. In each couple, at least one partner was an emerging adult (aged 18 to 29). Three scripts were identified: romantic love, unanticipated condomless anal intercourse (CAI), and negotiated safety. Scripts varied in their emphasis on emotional factors versus HIV risk reduction, the salience of sexual agreements, and the presence of an explicit communication goal. Results indicated that condom use may vary for couples as a result of script content and from the fluid adoption of scripts across contexts. Results highlighted potential tensions between emotional closeness and HIV prevention. Condom use cessation and sexual agreements – a potential mechanism for HIV risk reduction – may also serve as expressions of intimacy. This implies interventions which facilitate direct communication about sexual and relational goals – as well as those which expand couples’ repertoire for expressing emotional closeness – may enhance sexual health for gay couples, particularly during the period of emerging adulthood.