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21 September 2006
Sexuality Not So Clear-Cut For New York Men
by George Atkinson

Heterosexuality may not mean the same thing to all men. In fact, it appears that being "straight" can actually mean that you're bisexual. At least, that's what a new survey conducted by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene suggests.

The survey, of more than 4,000 men living in New York City, found that nearly 10 percent of the participants who identified themselves as straight had in fact had sex with at least one man during the previous year.

Appearing in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal, the researchers say that the results indicate a fair amount of discrepancy between a man's self-identified sexual identity and his actual sexual behaviors.

The researchers said that these heterosexually flexible men were typically more likely to belong to a minority racial or ethnic group, be foreign-born, have a lower educational level, and live outside Manhattan. Intriguingly, 70 percent of these sexually ambiguous men reported being married.

Of great concern to health authorities is likely to be the fact that compared to men who identified themselves as gay, the sexually ambiguous males were less likely to have been tested for HIV infection during the previous year and less likely to have used a condom during their last sexual encounter.

Author of the study, Preeti Pathela, said health workers couldn't rely on self-reported sexuality as a guide for risk. "Public health prevention messages should target risky sexual activities, such as unprotected receptive anal sex, and should not be framed to appeal solely to gay-identified men," he added. "Doctors need to ask patients about specific sexual practices instead of relying on self-reported sexual orientation to assess risk."

Based on material from the American College of Physicians

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