The study, titled You and Me, was conducted by researchers at San Francisco State University and is being presented at the 19th International AIDS Conference going on now in D.C. It indicates black-male couples tend to use condoms regularly but don’t discuss it, while white-male couples talk about safer sex but are less vigilant about condom usage.
Researchers found that black couples were more likely use condoms regardless of HIV status. Black couples reported that practicing safe sex was the product of unspoken agreements where it was “just understood” that condom use was non-negotiable…
Most white couples, regardless of HIV status, did not use condoms. Many white couples came to that decision by discussing the risks and benefits of unprotected sex with each other. Interracial couples (black and white partners) were divided between using condoms and not using condoms.
White and interracial couples that included partners with a different HIV status reported that a major factor in their decision not to use condoms was the health of the HIV positive partner.
Many white and interracial couples believed that if the HIV positive partner has a low viral load and is taking HIV medication, the risk of HIV transmission is lower. The findings add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that some gay couples are abandoning condom use in response to beliefs about advances in HIV treatment and testing.
“When some individuals get tested and hear that they have a lower viral load, they might interpret that decreased risk as no risk and hence use no protection,” Hoff said. “It’s a calculated risk that they are taking.”
Couples of all backgrounds who used condoms admitted to occasional “slip-ups,” but their behavior afterward differed: After discussing the situation and getting tested for HIV, black couples generally returned to condom use.
White and mixed couples tended to continue having unsafe sex.
“We found that black and white gay men process the information they receive about HIV in different ways,” said SF State researcher Chad Campbell. “And for black men, using condoms is the default choice. The black gay men we surveyed were aware of the high rates of HIV among their demographic and were taking steps to ensure they don’t become another statistic.”