HIV, Barebacking, and Gay Men's Sexuality, Circa 2001

Carballo-Diéguez, Alex
September 2001
Journal of Sex Education & Therapy;2001, Vol. 26 Issue 3, p225
Academic Journal
Of all the chronic illnesses that affect sexuality, HIV disease is probably the most dramatic since it carries the possibility of transmission of a chronic and probably lethal disease to an uninfected partner. Although the risk of transmission is minimized with consistent condom use, many gay men find this practice difficult to uphold. This is evidenced by recent epidemiological reports from US urban centers that show an increase in STDs, including new HIV infections, among men who have sex with men. The author contrasts the gloom of the first decade of the AIDS epidemic with the more hopeful outlook that gay men have at the dawn of the new millennium. In the latter context, the phenomenon of barebacking, defined as intentional condomless anal sex in HIV-risk contexts, is analyzed through the stories of gay men involved in the practice. The stories highlights specific sexual scenarios that the informants find erotic, meanings attributed to sex, circumstances associated with unprotected sex, assumptions about partners' HIV status, emotions, and risk awareness. Reference is also made to the early life histories of informants as they relate to their current experiences, especially their early awareness of same-sex attraction and feelings of guilt, the reactions they faced in the coming-out process, their histories of multiple partnerships and STDs, and their initial adoption and later progressive abandonment of safer sex. the stories point out the need to move beyond simplistic epidemiological models of sexual risk behavior determination and understand gay men's sexuality in all its multifaceted complexity.


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