Objectives: Relationship dynamics influence the perception of HIV risk in sexual dyads. The objective of this study was to examine the effect of relational dynamics on knowledge or perception of a partner's HIV status in a sample of most at-risk men who have sex with men (MSM): drug-using male sex workers. The study identified relationship dimensions and examined their association with misperceptions about a particular partner's HIV status. Methods: The analytical sample for the study consisted of 168 sexual partnerships of 116 male sex workers and their associates. Exploratory factor analysis was conducted to identify dimensions of the interpersonal relationships in sexual partnerships that were then regressed on 'risky misperceptions' (misperceiving HIV negative when partner's self-report was positive or unknown). Results: Six relationship dimensions of intimate, commitment, socialising, financial, trust and honesty were extracted. Commitment was found to be protective against misperception (adjusted OR (AOR)=0.45), while trust was not (AOR=2.78). Other factors also were found to be associated with misperception. HIV-negative MSM (AOR=7.69) and partners who were both self-identified as gay (AOR=3.57) were associated with misperception, while encounters identified as sex work (AOR=0.29), in which both partners were Caucasian (AOR=0.16), and involved with an older partner (AOR=0.90) were protective. Conclusions: Couple-based HIV intervention efforts among MSM should consider that less trust and more commitment are protective factors in sexual partnerships.
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