Incidence of new HIV cases is decreasing steadily in the United States—but not for everyone. “The HIV epidemic continues to disproportionately impact sexual and gender minority Hispanics/Latinos,” says Omar Martinez, assistant professor of social work at Temple University’s School of Social Work. In fact, the CDC estimates that if current trends continue, 1 in 4 Latino men who have sex with men (MSM) will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime. Researchers have begun to look at the relevance of relationship factors for HIV transmission among MSM generally, but little attention has been paid to the unique needs and experiences that influence the relationships of Latino MSM.
That’s changing. A team of researchers led by Martinez conducted a study, just published in Archives of Sexual Behavior, that examined relationship status and dynamics among Latino MSM, and associations to potential HIV-related risk behaviors. “In our study, Latino male couples were more likely to report condomless anal sex and problematic alcohol use than those who were not in a relationship,” says Martinez.
This study sheds light on the unique needs and challenges facing Latino MSM, and helps researchers identify new opportunities for HIV prevention interventions. Most study participants in relationships expressed commitment to and support for their partners—a finding which supports the idea that relationship dynamics are an important factor in effective HIV prevention interventions.
That’s something Martinez and colleagues have already begun working on with a new intervention called Conectando Latinos en Pareja, which is designed to be culturally and linguistically appropriate for Latino MSM. “Intervening with the couple offers many advantages over individual interventions,” says Martinez. “This intervention addresses relationship dynamics and the role they play it sexual health. It uses health promotion and risk reduction as strategies to strengthen a valuable relationship, building the couple’s communication and problem-solving skills, and helping them set and achieve goals that promote health and reduce risk.”