Background: Group sex events (GSE) may facilitate transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) by contributing to rapid partner exchange, risk disinhibition, and links to high-risk partners. Research on GSE is limited, particularly in heterosexual populations.
Methods: Data were collected during the baseline (in-prison) assessment of Project DISRUPT (N=169), an ongoing cohort study among African American men being released from prison who were in primary committed heterosexual partnerships at time of incarceration. Using audio computer-assisted self-interview survey methods, we assessed participation (attendance and sexual activity) in a GSE, other sexual risk behaviors, sex with high-risk partners, and drug use in the six months before incarceration. GSE was defined as “events, gatherings, or parties where people go to have sex together” and indicated “people at these parties may have sex with their usual partners… or with other people.” Participants were tested for STIs (chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis) using urine-based nucleic acid amplification assays.
Results: Fourteen percent (N= 23) participated in a GSE. Seven percent had an STI. GSE participation was not associated with multiple partnerships, concurrent partnerships, sex trade, weekly binge drinking, marijuana use, or crack/cocaine use. GSE participants appeared to be more likely than non-participants to have sex while drunk (87% versus 67%, p=0.052) and sex with a partner who ever sold sex (13% versus5%, p=0.16) though differences were not significant. GSE participation was strongly associated with STI (odds ratio (OR) 7.58, 95% confidence interval (CI): 2.20, 26.21). After adjusting for age, concern about paying bills, and substance use the association remained strong (OR: 6.96, 95% CI: 1.97, 24.67).
Conclusions: GSE were not uncommon in this population of heterosexual men. Findings that GSE were not associated with multiple/concurrent partnerships suggest some participate with primary partners. GSE should be prioritized for STI prevention given high infection levels among participants.