Compulsive Sexual Behavior and HIV Risk

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Investigator and Research Team

Michael Miner, PhD, is the principal investigator. The research team includes project coordinator Cathy Strobel and co-investigators Angus MacDonald, III, PhD (U of M Department of Psychology), Rebecca Swinburne Romine, PhD, Nancy Raymond, MD, and Erick Janssen, PhD (Kinsey Institute).

Funding

Grant from the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) to study sexual compulsivity. The aim of this grant it to gather the empirical data needed to clarify the characteristics of sexual compulsivity and how it leads to increased levels of HIV sexual risk behavior. This is the first investigation to explore underlying factors drawn from the various conceptualizations of sexual compulsivity and will advance the understanding of this theoretical construct. The findings of this study will further a nuanced approach to the development of interventions and allow for targeting the

About Sexual Compulsivity

Sexual compulsivity, or high levels of sexual behavior combined with a perceived lack of control, is strongly associated with unprotected sex and other HIV sexual risk behaviors. This association has been robust across populations, but particularly strong in men who have sex with men (MSM). This research project builds on previous research conducted at PHS which found that sexual compulsivity is associated with sero-discordant unprotected anal intercourse in HIV-positive MSM even after controlling for other known correlates (e.g., condom use self-efficacy, intentions to practice safer sex, etc.). However, while the association between sexual compulsivity and unsafe sex has considerable empirical support, the manner in which sexual compulsivity confers this increased risk, and therefore how to best influence such processes in order to reduce risk, is as yet, unknown.

Sexual compulsivity has been conceptualized as an addictive disorder, an impulsive disorder, and as a compulsive disorder. Others have questioned the existence of sexual compulsivity as a definable disorder and attribute the increased sexual behavior to high sex drive. Common across all conceptualizations are four factors: negative affect, sexual arousal, behavioral inhibition, and cognitive control. These factors influence HIV risk by interfering with the ability to manage one's sexual impulses, which would lead to multiple sexual encounters, and through impairments in the ability to consider multiple reinforcement contingencies and to consider the long-term consequences of pleasurable behavior which interferes with condom use. This study will provide needed empirical data to clarify the characteristics of sexual compulsivity and how it leads to increased levels of HIV sexual risk behavior.

A multi-method strategy will allow the research team to characterize sexual compulsivity and to provide needed empirical data to identify, and therefore help address, the underlying mechanisms that influence unsafe sexual behavior.

Contact

For additional information contact Cathy Strobel at csb-hiv@umn.edu or 612-624-7984.