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For those of you who still don’t know what barebacking is this slang term refers to a man having unprotected sex with another man. Sadly, many gay men are so unaware of current sexually related information that a large number of them aren’t even aware of what the term actually means, writes OutUK correspondent L.A.Vess in the first of a two-part feature.
During an annual conference on STDs, the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta in the USA reported that in a recent survey of over 500 gay men thirty percent of them did not know what barebacking was.
Even worse, of those surveyed who understood the term almost fifteen percent admitted engaging in unprotected anal sex with someone who they were not partnered with. In other words, an alarming number of gay men are still having sex with men they are not in committed relationships with, without using condoms. You would think that these men would have learned more respect for themselves — and their lives.

If you think this trend cannot get any more disturbing, you would be wrong. Of the men who participated in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study on barebacking, HIV+ men were the ones most likely to engage in unprotected sex. That’s right. That gorgeous hunk you hook up with in the dark corner of a nightclub and then take home to play doctor with has a very high chance of becoming your personal Grim Reaper — and he probably KNOWS it.

Reports from around the world have shown that gay men infected with HIV are quite knowingly engaging in sex with other men without revealing their HIV status — and the numbers are growing. Many of those who do reveal their status still insist on not using condoms. Many HIV- men are also knowingly having unprotected sex with positive men. Even more simply don’t ask or don’t care.

There are three different camps of barebackers — and all of them have one very common theme — how to make excuses for engaging in behaviour that can kill you. This week, we will address the first group — the ignorant, the misinformed and the downright issue avoiders. Next week we will address the second two groups — the ‘Russian Roulette’ barebackers and the ‘HIV is inevitable’ barebackers.

The first group of barebackers may be the most dangerous. These are the men who engage in unprotected sex out of ignorance and misinformation.

Misinformed? In this day and age? You bet. It is simply amazing how many gay men are completely unaware of the real facts surrounding AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. One of the most ridiculous (and most popular) theories is that what position you have sex in relates to how likely you are to catch a disease. Many believe that being a top greatly reduces your chance of getting an STD, some believe it is the bottoms that are safer. Both theories are complete BS. Your chances of getting infected have absolutely NO relation to what position you take during sexual intercourse.

Those infected with HIV or their sexual partners may believe that if their viral load is undetectable — they can’t transmit the disease. Researchers have proven that this is also a totally false theory. If you have HIV, regardless of viral load, you CAN transmit the virus to your partner; top, bottom or sideways, it doesn’t matter. In addition, it makes no difference if you cannot detect any physical symptoms, you don’t have open sores or cuts or you are careful when having sex. Being gentle doesn’t decrease your risk. Pulling out before ejaculation won't prevent infection. If you are having sex without a condom with an HIV+ person (or someone with any STD), you are at risk for contracting the disease — period.

Even if you do use condoms, you are not 100% safe. Amazingly, some men still think that condoms actually DO provide complete and absolute protection against H1V and other STDs. This is totally false. Using condoms does hugely reduce your risk, but there is still a chance you could be infected — especially as condoms break, expire or are sometimes defective in other ways. Often, men do not use perfectly good condoms properly, which renders them ineffective. (Read the box guys.)

Some gay men know they have had sex with an HIV+ person and have not contracted the disease. This leads many to believing they cannot contract it. That, also, is completely wrong. You can have sex 100 times without getting infected, but that 101st time will ruin your life. Others are nonchalant about AIDS now that so many treatments are available — they no longer consider it a terminal disease. This is a truly misinformed excuse. Gay men still die constantly from AIDS — even men who are receiving every possible medical treatment. Those who are living with the disease often have so poor a quality of life that they live in misery.

One of the absolute worst beliefs among men is that their sexual partners would tell them if they had HIV or another STD. Wrong. Many men are aware they have a disease, and yet do not tell those they have sex with. In addition, a huge number of those who are HIV+ or have other diseases don’t know they have them. In the U.S. alone, the CDC estimates that at least a half a MILLION people are unaware that they have HIV. Do NOT assume that if a man doesn’t have a condom with him or doesn’t use them that he is disease free or that even a person you know well is HIV negative. You, like many other men, will eventually find out that is a false belief in many cases. Many men also believe that if they are in a committed relationship, they are safe. This is has been proven wrong time and time again. It does not matter if you absolutely believe your partner is faithful. More men than you can count have believed this, and still gotten HIV from that one time they or their partner slipped up. Or, you or your partner could be infected from a previous relationship or encounter and not be aware of it. Symptoms of HIV can take years to show up, if you aren’t tested, you won’t know.

Remember that it can also take up to six months for you to test positive if you have HIV. So just because that first test is negative, it does not mean you don’t have the disease — you must get tested again in six months. And don’t forget all those other devastating STD’s. Just because you don’t have HIV, it does not mean that you or your sexual partner are not at risk for something nasty.

Last but not least, ‘morning after’ therapy is NOT a cure-all. Though recent studies have shown that treatment with AIDS drugs after having unprotected sex may prevent infection, it is not 100% effective. The treatment is also extremely involved, consisting of a month worth of combined medications that will leave you feeling sick and suffering from multiple side effects.

The list of misinformation is endless, but there is only one simple thing to remember. Don’t believe any information that tells you that having unprotected sex with ANYONE — your committed partner or otherwise can be safe.

For more information and advice on AIDS and HIV then check out the resources in our OutReach directory.

Barebacking Pt 2

 

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