Depressive symptoms and human immunodeficiency virus risk behavior among men who have sex with men in Chennai, India

Steven A. Safren, Beena E. Thomas, Matthew J. Mimiaga, V. Chandrasekaran, Sunil Menon, Soumya Swaminathan, Kenneth H. Mayer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Men who have sex with men (MSM) in India are a hidden population, facing unique environmental stressors and cultural pressures that place them at risk for depression. Depression may affect HIV risk behavior in MSM, and may affect the degree to which MSM may benefit from HIV prevention interventions. Depression in MSM in India, however, has largely been understudied. Two hundred ten MSM in Chennai completed an interviewer-administered behavioral assessment battery, which included the 20-item Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D), demographics, sexual risk and identity, and other psychosocial variables. Over half (55%) of the sample exceeded the cutoff (CESD ≥ 16) to screen in for clinically significant depressive symptoms; this was associated with having had unprotected anal sex (OR = 1.97; 95% CI: 1.01-3.87) and higher number of male partners (OR = 1.04; 95% CI: 1.01-1.07). Statistically significant bivariate predictors of meeting the screen in for depressive symptoms included sexual identity (Kothi > Panthi; OR = 4.90; 95% CI: 2.30- 10.54), not being married (OR = 3.40; 95% CI: 1.72-6.81), not having a child (OR = 4.40; 95% CI: 2.07-9.39), family not knowing about one's MSM identity (OR = 2.30; 95% CI: 1.18-4.90), having been paid for sex (OR = 5.10; p 95% CI: 2.87-9.47), and perceiving that one is at risk for acquiring HIV (OR = 1.10; 95% CI: 1.02-1.17; continuous). In a multivariable logistic-regression model, unique predictors of screening in for depressive symptoms included not being married (AOR = 3.10; 95% CI: 1.23-7.65), having been paid for sex (AOR 3.80; 95% CI: 1.87-7.99) and the perception of increased risk for HIV (AOR = 1.10; 95% CI: 1.03-1.21; continuous); unprotected anal sex in the 3 months prior to study enrollment approached statistical significance (AOR 2.00; 95% CI: 0.91-4.48). Depression among MSM in Chennai is of concern and should be considered while developing HIV prevention interventions with this population. MSM who are not married, sex workers, and those who perceive they are at risk for acquiring HIV may be of higher risk for symptoms of depression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)705-715
Number of pages11
JournalPsychology, Health and Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Depression
  • HIV
  • India
  • MSM
  • Men who have sex with men

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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