Growing Number of Bay Area Gay and Bisexual Men Intentionally Engaging in Unprotected Sex
A growing number of gay and bisexual men in the Bay Area are engaging in "barebacking" -- intentionally having unprotected anal sex -- causing health officials to rethink traditional HIV prevention strategies, according to a new study, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The study, which was conducted by researchers from the CDC and the San Francisco Department of Public Health and published in the March 8 issue of the journal AIDS, polled 554 Bay Area men who have sex with men. The study found that 70% of participants were familiar with the term barebacking, and of those, 14% said they had engaged in the practice within the past two years. Twenty-two percent of HIV-positive participants had barebacked within the past two years, compared to 10% of HIV-negative participants (Heredia, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/4).
The study authors concluded that traditional HIV prevention strategies need to be revamped to better reach target populations. "Our conclusion was that we need to develop new prevention interventions differently. People are decidedly not using a condom. The old way is not working," lead study author Gordon Mansergh, a CDC behavioral scientist, said (Associated Press, 4/4). Noting that half of the study participants who had barebacked said they did so while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, health officials said that overall health strategies for gay and bisexual men are needed. Grant Colfax, director of HIV prevention studies at the San Francisco Department of Public Health and a co-author of the study, said, "We need to begin talking about ... not using drugs while engaging in unprotected sex, appeal to HIV-positive men's altruism to not spread the disease and drive home the message that AIDS isn't cured. You can still get HIV" (San Francisco Chronicle, 4/4).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.