Love with HIV: A Latent Class Analysis of Sexual and Intimate Relationship Experiences Among Women Living with HIV in Canada
Archives of Sexual Behaviour
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Love remains hidden in HIV research in favor of a focus on risk. Among 1424 women living with HIV in Canada, we explored (1) whether eight facets of sex and intimacy (marital status, sexual activity, physical intimacy, emotional closeness, power equity, sexual exclusivity, relationship duration, and couple HIV serostatus) may coalesce into distinct relationship types, and (2) how these relationship types may be linked to love as well as various social, psychological, and structural factors. Five latent classes were identified: no relationship (46.5%), relationships without sex (8.6%), and three types of sexual relation-ships-short term (15.4%), long term/unhappy (6.4%), and long term/happy (23.2%, characterized by equitable power, high levels of physical and emotional closeness, and mainly HIV-negative partners). While women in long-term/happy relationships were most likely to report feeling love for and wanted by someone "all of the time," love was not exclusive to sexual or romantic partners and a sizeable proportion of women reported affection across latent classes. Factors independently associated with latent class membership included age, children living at home, sexism/genderism, income, sex work, violence, trauma, depression, HIV treatment, awareness of treatment's prevention benefits, and HIV-related stigma. Findings reveal the diversity of women's experiences with respect to love, sex, and relationships and draw attention to the sociostructural factors shaping intimate partnering in the context of HIV. A nuanced focus on promoting healthy relationships and supportive social environments may offer a more comprehensive approach to supporting women's overall sexual health and well-being than programs focused solely on sexual risk reduction.