A boost in mood could lead to a boost in safe sex practices -- at least in HIV-positive men, a small new study suggests.
Researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health found that HIV-positive men were more likely to engage in safe sex practices if they experienced an improvement in mood over the course of a week.
There are a number of possible ways a mood affects safe sex: Having a bad mood or experiencing depressive symptoms could make people less likely to push for safe sex practices with a partner, for instance.
It's also possible that being happier could decrease fatalistic outlooks on life. "They might think in bad weeks, 'I don't have much of a life to live, anyway. I have to deal with finding food today or a place to stay. HIV is the least of my concerns,'" study researcher Patrick A. Wilson, Ph.D., associate professor of Sociomedical Sciences at the university, posited in a statement.
The new study, published in the journal Health Psychology, included 106 HIV-positive men who have sex with men who were sexually active, most of whom were Latino or black. More than half of the participants said that they had unprotected sex in the last two months, and four in five participants said they had more than one sex partner.
Researchers observed the study participants over the course of six weeks to track their sexual practices and changes in depressive symptoms and levels of well-being.
Men who reported well-being increasing over any given week were more likely to engage in safe sex, compared with a "normal" week where there were no increases in well-being -- 66 percent versus 46 percent. And on the flip side, the men who reported depressive symptoms increasing over any given week were more likely to engage in risky sex, compared with a "normal" week.
The findings suggest it could be valuable to teach particularly at-risk groups ways of coping and maintaining well-being. And while this study was done in HIV-positive men who have sex with men -- with the majority of study participants being from racial groups that are disproportionately affected by HIV -- researchers noted that the general findings about mood affecting safe sex practices probably apply to everyone.