Why do men who have sex with men practice condomless sex? A systematic review and meta-synthesis


BACKGROUND: Despite a large amount of behavioral interventions to reduce human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-related high-risk sexual behaviors, consistent condom use remains suboptimal among men who have sex with men (MSM). However, current databases are lack of synthesized evidence to explain why MSM practiced condomless sex. OBJECTIVE: Our study aims to conduct a systematic review and meta-synthesis of 39 eligible qualitative studies to explore the barriers to condom use among MSM. METHODS: A systematic review and meta-synthesis of qualitative studies (1994–2021). On March 4, 2021, a comprehensive search was conducted in 14 electronic databases. The study was conducted based on the Joanna Briggs Institute’s recommendations. RESULTS: Thematic analysis produced six synthesized themes, which were classified into three levels according to the Social-ecology Model. Individual level barriers to condom use included physical discomfort, lack of HIV/STI-related knowledge and substance use; interpersonal-level barrier was mainly the condom stigma, namely regarding using condom as symbols of distrust or HIV/sexually transmitted infections (STIs) prevention, or as violating traditional cognition of sex, or as an embarrassing topic; environmental/structural-level barriers included situational unavailability, unaffordability of condoms and power imbalance in the sexual relationship. CONCLUSION: This meta-synthesis offered in-depth understanding of condom use barriers for MSM and could guide the development of multifactorial interventions according to the identified barriers, especially targeting to reduce condom stigma, which has not been focused and intervened previously.


Shen Y, Zhang C, Valimaki MA, Qian H, Mohammadi L, Chi Y, Li X




  • Population(s)
    • Men who have sex with men
    • General HIV- population
  • Prevention, Engagement and Care Cascade
    • Prevention
  • Prevention
    • Sexual risk behaviour


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