Current research tells us that gay and bisexual men experience disproportionately high levels of childhood sexual abuse, in some groups higher than 1 in 3, which is much higher than in the general male population. Further, studies have found that gay/bisexual men who have experienced sexual abuse can be at increased risk for HIV through higher rates of risky sex.
The relationship between childhood sexual abuse and risky sex in adulthood is likely influenced by a combination of psychological, psychosocial, and behavioral factors. Sexually abusive experiences may interfere with our ability to manage our risky behavior. The existing research tells us that survivors of childhood or adolescent sexual abuse are more likely to have one-night stands, use drugs during sex, and more likely to have been in recent abusive relationships. Also, gay/bisexual men who experienced childhood sexual abuse are more likely to experience social adjustment and psychological problems.
Dr. Conall O’Cleirigh, a Behavioral Scientist and Clinical Psychologist with The Fenway Institute, believes that we can help gay/bisexual men protect themselves from HIV (and other sexually transmitted diseases) by addressing the co-occurring psychological issues that survivors of childhood sexual abuse often encounter. Through a combination of scientific trauma-focused psychotherapy and safer sex counseling, Dr. O’Cleirigh and his colleagues are developing an intensive, short-term therapy that addresses both the trauma related to childhood sexual abuse and the challenges faced by gay/bisexual men trying to reduce their risky sexual behavior. Known as Project THRIVE, this therapy combines sex-positive, sexual risk reduction counseling with cognitive therapy into a 10-session individual course of therapy. Our initial findings, although preliminary, are very promising.
Project THRIVE will continue to enroll participants through the summer of 2010.
For more information on Project THRIVE please call 617.927.6119.