This study, focusing on 566 homosexual male couples in the San Francisco area, examines partner-provided social support and the role it may play in reducing HIV transmissions. Partner- provided social support was measured using the Social Provisions Scale (SPS), a pre-existing measurement that was also modified to document HIV-specific support.
Evidence cited in this article indicates that the majority of HIV infections among men who have sex with men (MSM) occur within the context of primary partnerships. The article also cites some research that shows agreements to have sex with others as being common in MSM relationships. The nature of these agreements and other situations surrounding the relationship may have an impact on sexual behavior.
Among the couples involved in the study, one of the most significant factors in determining whether an individual engaged in risky behavior like unprotected anal intercourse (UAI) in relationships was the presence of partner-provided HIV-specific social support. The study found that, generally, the greater the support the less likely an individual was in engaging in UAI with an outside partner of either concordant, discordant, or unknown serostatus. If only general social support was provided, however, there was an increased risk of UAI among men in concordant relationships with outside partners. The study suggests that HIV intervention groups should focus on MSM couples and work to increase the level of HIV-specific support provided.