Some gay male couples, including ones in Atlanta and two other cities, support getting HIV tests with their partner as a way to bolster the relationship, but current testing protocols may not support it, according to a new study from Emory University researchers.
The study, “Attitudes Towards Couples-Based HIV Testing Among MSM in Three U.S. Cities,” was published in the journal AIDS and Behavior. Dr. Rob Stephenson of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory worked with three colleagues from the school and others in Chicago and Seattle to complete the study. It calls on opening HIV testing to gay couples as a way to fill “a significant gap” in couples-based services for men who have sex with men (MSM) and to help them integrate routine HIV testing into their lives.
“Services remain individually focused,” the researchers say. “[Couples-based voluntary HIV counseling and testing] provides an opportunity for MSM to talk about sex, and to make plans for safer sexual behavior as a couple in the presence of a counselor.”
“The initial results presented here are encouraging. Couples-based voluntary HIV counseling and testing] is an acceptable format for HIV counseling and testing among MSM in this study, and if it is adapted and promoted well, could fill a significant gap in couples-based services for U.S. MSM,” they add.
The researchers launched the study after noting that heterosexual couples in Africa in which one member is HIV-positive and the other is not who receive HIV counseling and testing together helped bring about behavioral changes that reduced HIV transmission. So they examined attitudes toward couples-based testing with four focus groups of gay men in relationships in Atlanta, Chicago and Seattle.
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