The Relation between Depressive Symptoms and Unsafe Sex among MSM Living with HIV

Annemiek Schad?, Gerard van Grootheest, Johannes H. Smit

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1 Citation (Scopus)


In people living with HIV (PLWH), a positive association is often found between depressive symptoms and unsafe sex, which means sex without a condom. However, the results of such studies are inconclusive. The present study compared the numbers of safe and unsafe sexual contacts from men who have sex with men (MSM) (N = 159), living with HIV and attending a mental health clinic, with those of HIV-negative MSM in the general population (N = 198). We determined whether the presence of depressive symptoms was associated with unsafe sex in either of the two study populations. The depressive symptoms were measured with the Inventory of Depressive Symptoms (IDS), (MSM living with HIV) and with the 2012 Sexual Health Monitor (HIV-negative MSM). Finally, we determined whether MSM living with HIV with depressive symptoms, who received psychiatric treatment as usual, engaged in fewer unsafe sexual contacts one year after baseline. The mental-health-treatment-seeking MSM living with HIV engaged in more unsafe sexual contact than the MSM comparison group without HIV. Neither the treatment-seeking MSM living with HIV nor the MSM without HIV in the general population exhibited a relationship between depressive symptoms and unsafe sex. Moreover, the successful treatment of depressive symptoms in the treatment group did not lead to any reduction in the number of unsafe sexual contacts. Further research is needed to develop interventions that might be effective for MSM living with HIV with mental health symptoms to reduce the number of unsafe sexual contacts.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1595
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023


  • HIV
  • MSM
  • depression
  • depressive symptoms
  • sex
  • unsafe sex

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