Journal of Urban Health

, Volume 96, Issue 3, pp 429–441 | Cite as

Transactional Sex among Men Who Have Sex with Men: Differences by Substance Use and HIV Status

  • Marjan JavanbakhtEmail author
  • Amy Ragsdale
  • Steven Shoptaw
  • Pamina M. Gorbach


Exchanging money, drugs, and other goods for sex has been associated with sexual risk behaviors and increased STIs/HIV. While female sex work is well described, data on men who exchange sex for money or goods are more limited. This paper examined the prevalence and correlates of transactional sex among young men who have sex with men, especially focusing on substance use and HIV status. We conducted a cohort study of 511 participants recruited between August 2014 and December 2017 in Los Angeles, CA. Eligible participants were: (1) between 18 and 45 years of age; (2) male; and (3) if HIV-negative, reported condomless anal intercourse with a male partner in the past 6 months. By design, half were HIV-positive and half HIV-negative. At baseline and semi-annual follow-up visits, computer-assisted self-interviews were used to collect information on demographics, sexual behaviors including transactional sex which was defined as exchange of money, drugs, or a place to stay for anal intercourse. Laboratory testing was conducted for current STI/HIV status. The average age of participants was 31.4 years with 43% identifying as African American, followed by 36% as Hispanic/Latino. The prevalence of recent transactional sex across 1486 study visits was 17% (n = 255), with 74% of those reporting exchanging sex for drugs. The prevalence of transactional sex was higher among those who reported unstable housing (32 vs. 11%; p value < .01), concurrent sexual partnerships (26 vs. 9%; p value < .01), and transgender sex partners (40 vs. 15%; p value < .01). Those who reported receiving money, drugs, or shelter for sex were also more likely to report giving money, drugs, shelter for sex than men who did not report exchange sex (77 vs. 11%; p value < .01). Based on multivariable analyses after adjusting for age and race/ethnicity, HIV viral load was independently associated with transactional sex [adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 1.4; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.1–1.7) per log10 increase]. Additionally, those testing positive for an STI were nearly twice as likely to report transactional sex as compared to those without STIs (AOR = 1.9; 95% CI 1.2–3.5). These findings underscore the relatively high prevalence of transactional sex and its potential role in ongoing HIV transmission among this cohort of high-risk HIV-negative and HIV-positive men who have sex with men.


Transactional sex STI HIV MSM 



This work was supported by NIH/NIDA grant number U01 DA036267.


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Copyright information

© The New York Academy of Medicine 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EpidemiologyUniversity of California Los Angeles Fielding School of Public HealthLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Department of Family MedicineUCLA David Geffen School of MedicineLos AngelesUSA

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