A new US study published in the Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of The New York Academy of Medicine has found that 32 percent of gay and bisexual men – nearly one in three – are victims of intimate partner abuse.

Little has previously been researched and documented about the patterns of intimate partner abuse in same-sex male couples. The results provide an important addition to the body of knowledge on this subject, and a call to action for health providers treating men who have sex with men (MSM).

“Men in same-sex relationships experience abuse rates similar to those faced by women in heterosexual pairings,” said lead author Eric Houston of the Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago.

“Intimate partner abuse among MSM does not receive the same attention as it does among heterosexual couples. As a result of the lack of attention, many MSM who need help may not be recognised unless the healthcare provider is appropriately trained and takes time to assess for abuse.”

Men in abusive relationships were more likely to report suffering from serious health problems such as heart disease, hypertension, depression, and anxiety, according to the study. These men also were more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors such as substance abuse and unprotected sex, leaving the gay/bisexual population at elevated risk of spreading and contracting HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Few prior studies have examined the health problems specific to abused gay and bisexual men.

Entitled Intimate Partner Abuse among Gay and Bisexual Men: Risk Correlates and Health Outcomes, the study is based upon a survey of a diverse urban population of 817 MSMs in the Chicago area.

More than half of the men who were victims of intimate partner abuse in a current or a past relationship reported experiencing more than one form of abuse (verbal, sexual and physical). Of the men reporting abuse, 63.4 percent reported verbal abuse, 59.2 percent reported physical, and 57 percent reported sexual.

Prevalence of abuse did not significantly vary by ethnic group, or among men who did or did not have a primary partner. The study looked at three key health behaviors: alcohol and drug use, unprotected sex, and smoking. Test results found that abused men were more likely to report monthly or more frequent alcohol intoxication and problems caused by substance use.

Abused men were also more likely to report frequent use of substances before or during sex as well as having unprotected sex, leading to a higher risk of spreading or contracting HIV/AIDS and other STDs.

“It is imperative that future research focus on ways to assess abuse and examine strategies designed to improve outreach to bring these men out of danger and improve their overall health outcomes,” Houston said.

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