Opposing associations of depression with sexual behaviour: implications for epidemiological investigation among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.

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The aim of this report is to investigate the nature of the relationship between depression and condomless sex (CLS) among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM).Data are from the Antiretrovirals, Sexual Transmission Risk and Attitude (ASTRA) study of people living with HIV and attending one of eight HIV outpatient clinics in England (2011-2012) and the Attitudes to and Understanding of Risk of Acquisition of HIV (AURAH) study of HIV-negative/unknown status individuals attending one of 20 genitourinary medicine clinics in England (2013-2014). This analysis included GBMSM only. For each study, the prevalence of depressive symptoms (Patient Health Questionnaire-9 score ≥10) was presented according to three categories of sex in the past 3 months (considering anal/vaginal sex with men/women and anal sex with men in separate definitions): (1) no sex, (2) condom-protected sex only and (3) CLS. Multinomial logistic regression with ‘condom-protected sex only’ as the reference group was used to adjust for age and (for ASTRA participants) time since HIV diagnosis.There were opposing associations of depression with recent sexual behaviour: the prevalence of depression was higher among those who reported no sex and those who reported CLS, compared with those who reported condom-protected sex only. Among the 2170 HIV-positive GBMSM in ASTRA, considering anal/vaginal sex with men/women, the prevalence of depressive symptoms was 32%, 20% and 28%, respectively, among men reporting no sex (n=783), condom-protected sex only (n=551) and CLS (n=836) (global p<0.001). Among the 1477 HIV-negative GBMSM in AURAH, the prevalence of depressive symptoms was 12%, 8% and 13%, respectively, for no sex (n=137), condom-protected sex only (n=487) and CLS (n=853) (global p=0.017). Patterns were similar after adjustment and when only considering anal sex between men.Depression may be linked both to lack of sexual activity and to sexual risk taking. When investigating associations between depression and CLS, it is important to separate out individuals reporting condom-protected sex only from those reporting no sex.

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