Many HIV-positive gay men having unprotected sex, study finds

CELIA HALL

Medical Editor

Nearly three-quarters of acts of penetrative sex between gay men take place without the use of condoms whether or not they are HIV positive or know their HIV status, according to a new survey.

Among men who are HIV positive, 40 per cent of penetrative sex acts are unprotected, even though some of the partners are not HIV-positive.

The findings are the result of a seven-year study into the sex lives of male homosexuals in which 400 men recorded intimate details in sex diaries.

Tony Coxon, Research Professor of Sociology at Essex University, who conducted the research, said overall levels of unprotected sex in the high-risk group were alarming. "There are certainly a few cases where for whatever reason they are in effect saying - it is other people's responsibility to protect themselves, not mine," he said.

Details of the survey, which found that among HIV positive men 40 per cent of penetrative sex was without condoms, are given on BBC Television's Public Eye tonight in "Sex in the Dark".

But the programme has already sparked a row over its claims that HIV people do not have a responsibility to tell sexual partners of their status.

Nick Partridge, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, says in the programme that those who do practise unprotected sex "should not be cast into the abyss of condemnation".

John Campbell of UK Aids and an HIV activist says: "It is very, very difficult living with HIV in the first place. To be telling people that they have the power to kill is only reinforcing all the negativity that people have to live with."

Last night Robin Gorna, head of health promotion at the trust, said: "Our message continues to be that everyone should practice safe sex. But it is difficult to sustain when we are 15 years into the epidemic. It is difficult to support people with HIV and help them to behave responsibly towards society if society continues to stigmatise them.

"Responsibility is a two-way process," she said.

Ms Gorna said she had not had the opportunity of seeing the programme.

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