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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
Barebacking Profile Emerges; Panel Examines Evolving Practice
Duncan Osborne
October 24, 2003
Gay City News (New York City) (10.16.03) - Friday, October 24,

A recent panel at New York City's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center discussed barebacking - intentional anal sex without condoms - and how clinicians can aid clients who bareback. "We feel it is more than just condom-less sex," said Danny Carragher, a project director at the Center for HIV/AIDS Educational Studies and Training (CHEST).

Alex Carballo-Dieguez, a researcher with New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University, presented studies showing that barebackers feel greater enjoyment, freedom, and masculinity when they have bareback sex. The risk of unprotected sex is also erotic for some men.

In a 2002 CHEST study of 518 gay and bisexual men in New York City, 204 reported having bareback sex in the previous three months. Of these men, 53 were HIV-positive and 151 were negative. The HIV-positive men had an average of 11 HIV- positive partners, less than three HIV-negative partners, and just over three partners whose serostatus was unknown. The HIV-negative men averaged less than one HIV-positive partner, nearly three negative partners, and just over two partners whose status was unknown.

Those surveyed said barebacking emerged in part because of new HIV medications (47.9 percent), AIDS fatigue (45.6 percent), "boring" safe sex campaigns (48.9 percent), and as a "sexual and cultural phenomenon" (40.3 percent). Data showed barebackers appeared to be happy and uninterested in changing their behavior.

Carragher said the research gives a more accurate picture of the sex lives of some gay and bisexual men. "It provides us with insight into the sexual practices of the community," he said. "As researchers we want to have clear answers. We don't want to speak about a community that we haven't studied empirically." "I don't think that prevention has failed," said therapist Michael Shernoff. "I think that prevention has failed to evolve. We have to tailor the prevention messages to reach the diversity of men."

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