New HIV infections on the rise in SF

The Associated Press
Friday April 05, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO — New HIV infections are on the rise in the San Francisco Bay area, in part, because a small proportion of gay men who are having unprotected sex, a new study shows. 

The study said despite years promoting condom use to prevent HIV infection, some gay men are actively seeking out partners who will have unprotected sex with them. 

“What it says is that, in this group, other needs supersede prevention of HIV transmission,” said Gordon Mansergh, lead author of the study and a behavioral scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. 

“Our conclusion was that we need to develop new prevention interventions differently. People are decidedly not using a condom. The old way is not working,” he said. 

The study by researchers at the CDC and San Francisco’s Department of Public Health is the first serious analysis of the practice of “barebacking,” in which gay or bisexual men intentionally engage in sex without a condom with someone other than their primary partner. 

Seventy percent of the 554 gay men contacted for the survey said they were familiar with barebacking, and of those, 14 percent said they had engaged in the practice within the past two years. Twenty-two percent of HIV-positive men had done so, compared with 10 percent of HIV-negative men. 

Participants in the survey were recruited at bars, dance clubs and community organizations in San Francisco and Oakland, and the study was conducted between July 2000 and February 2001. 

The practice of barebacking has grown at the same time that rates of HIV infection have begun to rebound in San Francisco. City health experts estimate that there will be 700 to 800 new HIV infections in San Francisco this year, numbers rivaling the early years of the AIDS epidemic.