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28 September 2005
Big Rise In Unprotected Gay Sex Has Experts Worried
by George Atkinson

Two articles in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections show a worrying rise in unprotected sex among gay men.

The first article looks at the findings of a survey of men attending gay bars in the Scottish cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow. The men were asked about their sexual behaviors as well as their attitudes to HIV infection and its treatment.

The findings showed that rates of unprotected anal sex rose 10 percent between 1999 and 2002. There was a similar rise in the numbers of men reporting activity with casual or multiple partners. The 10 percent rise represents almost a doubling on the reported figures from 1996.

The likelihood of unprotected sex with casual partners was greater among those men who said they were "less worried about HIV infection now that treatments have improved." The findings prompted the researchers to call for renewed efforts to spread the message about the need for HIV prevention to counteract what they called "prevention fatigue."

The second article was based on a much smaller study that interviewed men attending "POZ Parties" - parties where HIV positive men can meet other HIV positive men for sex. POZ parties emerged first in New York City but are now held in other major cities across the USA, as well countries in Western Europe and Canada and Australia.

The survey suggested that the two most popular reasons for attending POZ parties were not having to broach the subject of HIV status with a new partner and a desire to have unprotected sex. The interviewees said that unprotected sex with several partners over the course of a party was common. Around two thirds said they had had receptive anal sex, while almost three quarters said they had had penetrative anal sex.

The researchers said that while POZ parties had the potential to reduce the spread of HIV infection, they were worried by their potential to incubate HIV superinfections, arising from the high rates of unprotected sex that could help spread treatment resistant strains of HIV infection.

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