ORIGINAL RESEARCH–MEN'S SEXUAL HEALTH: Self-Reported Sexual Difficulties and Their Association with Depression and Other Factors among Gay Men Attending High HIV-Caseload General Practices in Australia


Limin Mao, PhD, Level 2 Webster Building, National Centre in HIV Social Research, University of New South Wales, NSW 2052, Sydney, Australia. Tel: 61-293854500; Fax: 61-293856455; E-mail: limin.mao@unsw.edu.au


Introduction.  Sexual expression affects physical, mental and social well-being. There is a lack of understanding of male sexual dysfunction in homosexually active men.

Aim.  We investigated gay men's self-report of a number of sexual problems.

Methods.  The survey data were from a sample of 542 self-identified gay men, 40% of whom were HIV positive, recruited from six high HIV-caseload general practices in Australia.

Main Outcome Measures.  The reporting of experiencing three or more sexual problems over a period of at least 1 month in the 12 months prior to a survey was defined here as having “multiple” sexual problems. We explored a number of factors, including HIV status, depression, alcohol and other drug use, and sexual risk-taking with casual male partners, in association with multiple sexual problems.

Results.  Rates of a range of self-reported sexual problems were high, with erectile dysfunction and lack of sexual desire being the most commonly reported. These high rates were consistent with the limited data from previous Australian studies. Men who had multiple sexual problems were likely to suffer from major depression (P < 0.001). A higher proportion of the HIV-positive gay men (48.4%) reported multiple sexual problems than the HIV-negative men (35.1%, P = 0.002). Factors independently associated with multiple sexual problems among the HIV-negative gay men were poorer general health and interpersonal isolation, whereas for the HIV-positive gay men, they were adoption of avoidant strategies to cope with daily life stress, sexual risk-taking in casual encounters, and the use of antidepressants.

Conclusions.  Our findings underscore the complex interactions between depression, sexual dysfunction, sexual risk taking, HIV infection, and general well-being among homosexually active men. Mao L, Newman CE, Kidd MR, Saltman DC, Rogers GD, and Kippax SC. Self-reported sexual difficulties and their association with depression and other factors among gay men attending high HIV-caseload general practices in Australia. J Sex Med 2009;6:1378–1385.