Background: Despite limited research, some evidence suggests that examining substance use at multiple levels may be of greater utility in predicting sexual behavior than utilizing one level of measurement, particularly when investigating different substances simultaneously. We aimed to examine aggregated and event-level associations between three forms of substance use—alcohol, marijuana, and club drugs—and two sexual behavior outcomes—sexual engagement and condomless anal sex (CAS).
Method: Analyses focused on both 6-week timeline follow-back (TLFB; retrospective) and 30-day daily diary (prospective) data among a demographically diverse sample of 371 highly sexually active HIV-positive and HIV-negative gay and bisexual men.
Results: Models from both TLFB and diary showed that event-level use of alcohol, marijuana, and club drugs was associated with increased sexual engagement, while higher aggregated frequency marijuana and any frequency club drug use were associated with decreased sexual engagement. Event-level use of club drugs was consistently associated with increased odds of CAS across both TLFB and diary models while higher frequency marijuana use was most consistently associated with a lower odds of CAS.
Conclusions: Findings indicated that results are largely consistent between retrospective and prospective data, but that retrospective results for substance use and sexual engagement were generally greater in magnitude. These results suggest that substance use primarily acts to increase sexual risk at the event-level and less so through individual-level frequency of use; moreover, it primarily does so by increasing the likelihood of sex on a given day with fewer significant associations with the odds of CAS on sex days.