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Sexual agreements may help gay men battle STD rates

Category: Sexually Transmitted Diseases

HIV and sexually transmitted disease rates are particularly high among men who have sex with men, so researchers are constantly searching or ways to encourage this population to take STD diagnosis tests and practice safer sex. Recently, scientists from the University of Michigan found that 57 percent of gay men surveyed do have a system to reduce HIV and STD rates called a "sexual agreement."

While these agreements do show promise for reducing infection and virus rates, the scientists said more men need to participate.

Possibly effective, if followed
According to the researchers, 57 percent of couples they spoke to said they had a sexual agreement. This means that they put down rules and boundaries for what sex-related behaviors would be tolerated in the relationship. These agreements are a good step toward preventing the spread of STDs, but only if they are followed. Unfortunately, the scientists found that among half the couples, one or both men said they had broken parts of the agreement.

Also, many men who broke their sexual agreements with their partners said they were afraid to tell their significant other, which the researchers said may inadvertently increase their partners' risk of HIV.

"From a public health perspective, we need to encourage gay couples to have more honest and explicit discussions when establishing and honoring sexual agreements," said Jason Mitchell, assistant professor at the U-M School of Nursing. "Sexual agreements are not only advantageous from a prevention standpoint for couples, but the agreement can also help strengthen their relationship."

This is the first study to get information from both male partners in gay relationships across the country. To find men to survey, researchers put ads for the study on Facebook seeking men over the age of 18 who are in a committed relationship with another man.

More on sexual agreements
Impact, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered resource center at Northwestern University, explains that making a sexual agreements is the key to having a happy, trusting and safe relationship for gay couples. The group adds that agreements don't have to fit one particular mold, each couple can have their own based on their preferences and the type of relationship they have. They recommended that couples be honest with each other about what they want from their relationship. It's important for both gay and straight couples to have open and honest communication for a happy, STD-free relationship.

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