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Examining the Impact of Social Distancing and Methamphetamine Use on Sexual Risk and Intimate Partner Violence in Sexual and Gender Minority Young Adults During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Xavier Hall CD, Javanbakht M, Iyer C, Costales C, Napolitano JC, Johnson T, Castro CF, Newcomb ME, Kipke MD, Shoptaw S, Gorbach PM, Mustanski B

Drug and Alcohol Dependence

Background: During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, concerns were raised about the potential impact of pandemic-related social distancing measures on existing health disparities among sexual and gender minority (SGM) young adults, including HIV transmission risk and intimate partner violence (IPV). Another concern was the potential for increased methamphetamine use during the pandemic, which is a known risk factor for HIV transmission and IPV.

Methods: The present analysis examines the impact of COVID-19 social distancing (social distancing and quarantining) and methamphetamine use on HIV risk and IPV in a combined dataset from 3 cohort studies of SGM young adults (two in Los Angeles and one in Chicago) from May 2020 to April 2021 (n = 1142). Bivariate analyses and multivariable logistic regressions were estimated.

Results: The median age was 26. All participants were assigned male at birth and most participants were men (93.8%). The largest racial groups were Hispanic/Latinx (44.6%) and Black (29.0%). In adjusted models methamphetamine use was consistently associated with having a new sex partner, higher numbers of sex partners, and experience of IPV, during the pandemic. Reporting no social distancing and reporting one social distancing behavior, were associated with experience of IPV relative to reporting 2 social distancing behaviors. Social distancing was not associated with sexual risk behavior or Pre-exposure Prophylaxis use.

Conclusions: SGM young adults live at the intersection of multiple vulnerabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Addiction services, HIV prevention services, and violence support services should be prepared to support young adult SGM needs, particularly those who use methamphetamine.

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