Psychological Symptoms Are Associated with Both Abstinence and Risky Sex Among Men with HIV

Carol T. Miller, Sondra E. Solomon, Janice Y. Bunn, Susan E. Varni, James J. Hodge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Sexual abstinence is often deemed the “safest behavior” in HIV prevention, but is sometimes associated with psychological symptoms (e.g., depression) just as sexually risky behavior is. This study explored whether sexual abstinence and risky sexual behavior among men with HIV were associated with similar constellations of psychological symptoms. Prior research has not addressed this issue because abstinent people often are not included in the sample or, when data are analyzed, researchers combine abstinent people with sexually active people who practice safer sex. Past research also neglects the co-morbidity of psychological symptoms. A latent class analysis of the psychological symptoms (assessed with the Symptom Check List 90-R; Derogatis, 1994) of 140 men with HIV, mostly from rural New England, revealed three latent classes: men who were asymptomatic on all symptom domains (28.8 %), men who were symptomatic on all domains (34.1 %), and men who were symptomatic on internalizing domains (37.1 %), but were asymptomatic on the externalizing symptoms of hostility and paranoid ideation. Logistic regression showed that sexual behavior during the past 90 days of men in the all symptom class and the internalizing symptoms class was similar, with abstinence and risky sex predominating, and safer sex being relatively uncommon for both classes. The sexual behavior of men in the asymptomatic class differed, with safer sex being relatively more likely to occur compared to the symptomatic classes. These findings suggest that the psychological symptom profile of sexually abstinent people places them at risk for inconsistent condom use should they engage in sexual behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)453-465
Number of pages13
JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology


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