- LONDON (Reuters) - Unsafe
sex between men is becoming increasingly acceptable in the West and appears
to be a backlash among the gay community against what are seen as monotonous
health campaigns, research showed Tuesday.
- Michele Crossley of Manchester University told a British
Psychological Society conference in London that 'barebacking' -- premeditated
and defiant unprotected anal intercourse -- was often a reaction to men
being told not to do it.
- ``The term 'barebacking' suggests a shift toward something
sexy or alluring,'' Crossley said.
- She quoted examples from extreme gay literature which
spoke of the practice of HIV-infected men offering to infect other people
with the disease and healthy men seeking others to infect them with it.
- ``These are extreme examples, but 'barebacking' has become
a new discourse in gay circles,'' she said.
- ``I would argue that this shift in the discourse is worrying,
because unsafe sexual practices are becoming increasingly acceptable.''
- Crossley quoted research that showed that of 6,000 gay
men questioned in inner London, 38 percent said they had had unprotected
anal intercourse in 1998 compared with 32 percent in 1996.
- She also cited U.S. statistics on a significant rise
there in unprotected sex among gay men.
- Crossley put the trend down to a number of factors including
complacency over safety issues particularly among young gay men, improved
treatments for HIV and the view that unprotected sex was an expression
of romantic love.
- Health Warnings Often Counterproductive
- But health education, and particularly the promotion
of good health as a symbol of moral rectitude, were triggering a reverse
reaction in Britain and the United States, Crossley said.
- ``This risk is increasingly taken as an aura of rebellion
- ``This is the boomerang effect -- it is people reacting
to a pressure to reestablish a lost freedom.''
- Crossley said that health promotion among gay men must
take this reaction on board quickly.
- ``I think that health promotion, by failing to understand
this context, may be making things worse, exacerbating the problem.''
- Gary Taylor of Sussex University said his research showed
that the perception of HIV had shifted since the early 1980s, when it was
usually associated with full-blown AIDS
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