Some Couples Do It At Home
Welcome To Project Nexus
Relationships are amazing, fun, romantic, and exciting. Sometimes in a relationship it can be tough to talk about important matters - like HIV. Being in a relationship is often like being in a bubble: The constant messaging about HIV risk has been linked to casual sex, creating this myth that relationships offer a protection from HIV. And that once you found the one, you no longer need to think about protecting you or your partner from HIV. Beyond messaging, the love blindness that often afflicts us in the early stages of a relationship, also known as the "honeymoon stage," can prevent us from asking questions about HIV status and from talking to our partners about condom use. Many times I have counseled men who told me, “If he was HIV-positive he would tell me, he loves me.” But this assumes he knows his own status.

That is what Project Nexus is all about. In this project we are enrolling male couples from across the US and asking them to complete surveys and to take a home HIV test. To compensate for everyone’s time and effort, we’re offering a total of $150 per person or $300 per couple for participating. We hope that through this study we can not only improve our understanding of how male couples can deal with HIV together, but that we can also build services that recognize and respect couple’s relationships.

We hope you enjoy participating in this exciting new project!

Rob Stephenson, Project Nexus
Facts about HIV incidence among couples
In a relationship there are myriad issues to manage. Who walks the dog? Who does the cooking? Who are we supporting to win RuPaul’s Drag Race? But there is one issue that can often be harder to manage — how do we, as a couple, deal with HIV? Gay men and other men who have sex with men are the only risk group in the U.S. to be experiencing an increase in HIV infections. Throughout the four decades of the epidemic, HIV has been messaged as driven by unsafe casual sex. However, recent studies show that one- to two-thirds of new infections in fact come from main partners.

When you stop to think about it, this makes sense: Instead of a hookup, you most likely are having more sex with your main partner, especially anal sex, and you are less likely to be using condoms. Due to this fact, you literally have more potential exposures to HIV from your main partner than you would in a one-night stand. Our recent research shows that gay men in relationships perceive themselves to be at less risk of HIV and test less frequently for HIV than single men, despite frequent non-use of condoms with their main partners.

That is how Project Nexus was born. In this project we aim to examine what happens when we give male couples the opportunity to test for HIV together in their own home.
Importance of HIV testing and early detection
Gay men remain at high risk for HIV:
Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) represent approximately 2% of the United States population, yet are the population most severely affected by HIV. An estimated 500,022 (57%) persons living with an HIV diagnosis in the United States are gay and bisexual men. The large percentage of gay and bisexual men living with HIV means that, as a group, gay and bisexual men have an increased chance of being exposed to HIV. Results of HIV testing conducted in 20 cities as part of the National HIV Behavioral Surveillance System (NHBS) indicated that 18% of gay and bisexual men tested in 2011 had HIV and that HIV prevalence increased with increasing age.
The need for regular HIV testing
Many gay and bisexual men with HIV are unaware they have it. Even though the NHBS study showed that the overall percentage of gay and bisexual men with HIV who knew of their HIV infection increased from 56% in 2008 to 66% in 2011, there were still many who did not know they had HIV. Among those infected, only 49% of young gay and bisexual men aged 18 to 24 years knew of their infection. People who don’t know they have HIV cannot get the medicines they need to stay healthy and may infect others without knowing it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all gay and bisexual men get tested for HIV at least once a year. Sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from more frequent testing (e.g., every 3 to 6 months).
Contact Project Nexus
If you have questions about Project Nexus, please feel free to either call one of our Project Nexus staff at 734-647-8826, or email us at: projectnexus@umich.edu.