A new study by New York’s non-profit Community Healthcare Network of gay and bisexual men who utilized social apps such as Grindr, Scruff, Manhunt and Growlr found that nearly 50% admitted to barebacking.
Dr. Freddy Molano, Assistant Vice President of HIV Programs and Services at CHN, and Renato Barucco, CHN’s Transgender Program Manager, surveyed 725 participants on four main areas: perspectives on HIV/AIDS; perspectives on unprotected anal intercourse; HIV/AIDS knowledge; and, in an optional section, the reasons behind risk-taking behaviors during intercourse.
According to the study, the 47% of respondents who admitted to risk-taking activities such as unprotected anal intercourse were knowledgeable about HIV/AIDS and were afraid of getting infected or re-infected with the virus.
“The survey findings show a clear disconnect between the reasons why men engage in unprotected anal intercourse and the way prevention initiatives attempt to address risk behaviors,” said Barucco.
As for their reasons for engaging in unprotected sex, 84.6% of respondents claimed “with condoms it does not feel the same,” while 73.8 % cited “impulsive sexual behaviors.”
- Respondents were sufficiently knowledgeable about HIV/AIDS. 80.9 percent of respondents knew that HIV is transmitted through “unprotected anal sex, vaginal sex, and – less frequently – oral sex.”
- A majority of respondents (68.1 percent) were afraid to be infected or re-infected, believe people should be more concerned about the epidemic, and view it overall as a serious issue.
- A majority felt that AIDS is a “somewhat serious” problem for people they know (52.5 percent), while 29.4 percent considered it to be a serious problem.
- The vast majority of respondents considered barebacking (defined as unprotected anal sex) dangerous and believed barebackers are informed of the risk.
- Yet, almost half of respondents (46.4 percent) admitted to barebacking always, often, or sometimes versus 53.6 percent who reportedly never engage in unprotected anal intercourse.
“Clearly, we’ve come a long way in educating people about HIV and AIDS,” said Dr. Molano, “yet among certain populations, HIV and AIDS is on the rise, and that’s alarming. We conducted this study as a result of a seeming correlation between an increasing use of mobile social networking apps designed for men to meet each other and an increase in HIV infections among [men who have sex with men] MSM.”
In addition to traditional prevention programs and initiatives, such as HIV education and distributing condoms, the study’s authors believe new methods, including treatment as prevention (pre-exposure prophylaxis), are needed.
“We must address the complicated psychological, emotional, and behavioral variables that come into play during sexual encounters and that predispose target population to barebacking,” Barucco added. “Otherwise, the number of new infections among young gay and bisexual men will likely continue to rise.”