Committed Couples Reality Gives HIV Awareness New Focus

Gay men in a committed relationship are six times more likely to engage in unprotected sex than single gay men

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Just as it is in committed heterosexual couples, gay couples in a serious relationship are much more likely to engage in unprotected sex. The idea of unprotected sex is a reality in all types of human sexual relationships.

According to new Northwestern Medicine research, gay men who consider themselves in a committed relationship are six times more likely to engage in condom free sex than gay men who aren't in a relationship.

"Committed gay couples should continue using condoms until both pass an HIV screening test twice."

Brian Mustanski, associate professor in medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and lead author reports that being in a serious relationship provides mental as well as physical health benefits. These committed relationships can also increase tempting behaviors that put you at risk for HIV transmission.

Gay men who believe a committed relationship protects them from acquiring HIV are wrong. They still need to protect themselves because close to 80 percent of gay young men who are HIV positive are unaware of the infection because they aren't being tested frequently enough.

Mustanski encourages greater outreach to these gay, young couples. Researchers and policy makers need to focus on these young men in serious relationships to stop the spread of HIV. Mustanski is currently producing two videos which encourage healthy sexual lifestyles that will be available this summer at

The study findings reiterate recent Centers for Disease Control data showing that the majority of HIV transmissions occur in serious relationships.

Furthermore, being in a committed relationship more strongly influenced whether a gay man had unprotected sex than using drugs with a partner. Engaging in drug use with one's sexual partner only double the likelihood of condom free sex. 

Being in a committed relationship upped the ante six times over. Researchers are excited to have a new focus group to encourage healthy sexual behavior.

The Northwestern study looked at the behaviors of a diverse population of 122 gay teenagers when the study began. Their sexual behavior was recorded over the next  two years.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 1, 2011
Last Updated:
June 2, 2011