STUDY: New Report Suggests Condom Habits Differ By Race

The results of a recent survey of gay men indicate that decisions about condom use differ along racial lines.

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.”

Source: San Francisco State University via Science Codex


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  • hassia

    Interesting study. Oh right we have to wait for persona non grata to weigh in on this. I am sure he will scream that the findings are untrue.

  • scribe37

    As a black man I am happy that my group is stepping up. I think all gay men need to realize that gay men are men and that men lie about sex. Men lie about who and when they have sex. Having sex without a condom is trusting a man to be faithful, trusting him with your life. Yes I believe in love, but also note that there are plenty men and women who have been infected by HIV because they have trusted the wrong person.

  • hamoboy

    The higher rate of condom usage in black couples is because HIV is way more prevalent in most black communities. Poverty, lower education levels and high incarceration levels all combine like an evil Captain Planet to ensure this remains so. I suppose that black gay men stable and responsible enough to form couples would want to try escaping all that crap and not become statistics.
    Also, calling it now, the Grand Dragon of the Queert chapter is going to come along and interpret this report in the most ignorant way possible.

  • Jigae

    I wish we knew more about the sample size, research methods, etc. This looks like qualitative, interview-based research so I’m not sure how much we can actually infer from it.

    Although it does seem somewhat plausible.

  • darren

    @Jigae: Exactly, thus rendering it prone to be taken out of context

  • Colin

    “This looks like qualitative, interview-based research so I’m not sure how much we can actually infer from it.”


    It’s usually a given that pretty much anything that portrays blacks and black gays in particular in a positive light is probably inaccurate. They’re pretty much just feel-good fluff pieces. Just sayin.

  • CK

    @Colin: Wow! Hateful much?

  • Colin

    @CK: How is the truth hateful?

  • CK

    @Colin: To imply that there is nothing positive that can accurately be stated about an entire group of people is hateful. There is no demographic group of people that nothing good can be said for. If you believe that, then yes sir, you are hateful.

  • Colin

    @CK: Well that’s your opinion. My point was about inaccuracy. That’s all.

  • anthony

    like clockwork the Grand Duke arrives.

  • Hi There I'm Tom

    This study makes no sense as I just read articles on various sites indicating that HIV infections among young black men are at epidemic rates, among the highest in the world.

    These two studies are in complete conflict of each other, how is that?


  • Kim

    This is a study of couples men in relationships.We DK their ages.Young Black men had the one. out of four HIV rate.FYI Colin is Black

  • Ronn

    @scribe37: As a gay black man I agree with you about us stepping up. However, not to rain on our own parade but I think this “study” is flawed. People in general (black, white, brown or whatever) are known for giving answers that they “should” give in studies as opposed to giving true answers in regards to their actual sexual practices. If this study were really true, gay black men would not still account for the highest of HIV transmission rates and unfortunately that trend is just getting worse. Hard numbers actual numbers will always win out compared to a study based on peoples answers.

  • B

    Re No. 14 · Ronn wrote, ” If this study were really true, gay black men would not still account for the highest of HIV transmission rates and unfortunately that trend is just getting worse.”

    Apparently there are other things going on. Less access to high-quality health care probably results in fewer early diagnoses of HIV infections, and undiagnosed but infected individuals are among the most infectious. There are also higher incidents of some other STDs and that increases the risk of being infected by a significant amount. Also, blacks having their first sexual experience are more likely than some other ethnic groups to have that experience with someone who is older (and thus more likely to be infected due to having had more sex). Citation:

  • hamoboy

    @Ronn: Actually, it can be accepted. MSM black men show a high rate of HIV infection, but GAY black men are a subset of them. So it seems that black men who are self aware and responsible enough to identify as G/B and form relationships would display much safer behaviour than the rest of the MSM category: imprisoned heterosexuals and G/Bs on the DL…
    But you’re right, surveys and questionnaires aren’t the most accurate tools to use.


    @hamoboy: Thumbs up.

  • hamoboy

    People should keep in mind that MSM is a catch-all term, and doesn’t just describe gay or bisexual men. Quite a number of straight men have qualified under that umbrella at one point in their lives or another. Larry Craig and Ted Haggard qualify for MSM status, even though they’re homophobic christian douchebags.

  • B

    No. 18 · hamoboy · noted, “People should keep in mind that MSM is a catch-all term, and doesn’t just describe gay or bisexual men.”

    The term MSM was introduced to indicate a specific type of sexual activity. It is possible to be gay or bisexual and celibate. It is also possible for a man to be straight and have sex with other men, whether to “experiment”, to get off when a female partner is not available, or to get some financial reward (e.g., prostitutes or porn “actors/models”), not to mention sexual-assault victims.

    Medically, it doesn’t matter what the motivation was for the sexual activity.

  • WillBFair

    Study or no sudy, accurate or not, our focus should always be how we can stop the spread of hiv in our community. And stop letting people change the subject. That is the subject. Period.

  • Dontbemad

    I love how mad other races get when black people do well or get ahead. All those studies about how black men have more HIV are pure lies to keep other races superior. TOO bad the world is changing.

  • Enkidu

    There is a host of reasons — some genetic, some social — for the racial disparity in infection rates, and we could debate them forever. But race is not the issue.

    It is anal penetration and only anal penetration that drives the MSM AIDS epidemic. Always has been. We know from numerous studies that condom use (and certainly the promotion of condom use, which reinforces the falsehood that gay = anal) makes no difference on a large scale. We also know that the dominance of anal culture is a relatively recent phenomenon among men who love men, and if we reject this deadly, dirty and degrading parody of heterosexual relations in favor of highly erotic and manhood-affirming genital-to-genital sex (frot), the epidemic in our community will essentially end overnight.

  • Keith

    It is sad to see, in these days and age in the United States, an interacial study only used a black and white paradigm . I believe in San Francisco and New York, inter-racial also means latino, East and South Asian, Pacific Islanders, native Americans.. Checking the recruitment website alone, you only see black men images. The reserachers should be more honest and only engage in the study of black male couples only, or include another layer of black men who are engaged in couple relationship with non-black. Then, the focus will be more defined and meaningful, and it will provide better interpretation of the inter-racial dynamics versus same-race dynamics in safer sex practices.

  • testintg

    I don’t think it necessarily is more positive that black men are using condoms more. It sounds like this article is specifically about couples and seems to suggest a lack of trust in your partner if you are both HIV negative and still using condoms. After my boyfriend and I had dated for about 8 months we both got re-tested (we got tested before we slept together the first time too) and since we were both negative we haven’t used condoms since. I have never cheated on him, and I believe him 100% that he has never cheated on me. It’s just a lot easier not to deal with condoms especially since we didn’t wear the same size.

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