Longitudinal Study of Gay Male Couples

Investigator: Lynae Darbes, PhD
Sponsor: California State University System

Location(s): United States


The UCSF Gay Couples Study seeks to identify and examine relationship dynamics in gay and bisexual male couples and explore how those dynamics may affect sexual risk behaviors with both primary and non-primary partners. Relationship dynamics include issues such as communication, power dynamics, and agreements around sex inside and outside of the relationship. Other objectives include exploring factors associated with how, why, and when couples make agreements around sex, examining the various types and styles of those agreements, and describing how they differ in relation to couple serostatus.

Previous research shows that gay and bisexual men in relationships engage in unprotected anal intercourse with their primary partners at substantially higher rates as compared to single men. A desire for more intimacy in the relationship may contribute to couples engaging in unprotected sex with each other. Additionally, studies differentiating relationships by partner serostatus have found that men with seroconcordant partners report significantly higher rates of unprotected anal intercourse than men with serodiscordant partners. Whether these behaviors are ‘risky’ depends on many factors and needs to be further explored.

With high rates of seroconversion among gay male couples, and primary partners an often unrecognized and under-studied source of new HIV infections, studying gay and bisexual male couples is an important next step in HIV research and prevention.