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Number of Partners Doesn't Explain Gay HIV Rate
Date:9/13/2007

Gay, straight men equally prone to unprotected sex, research shows

THURSDAY, Sept. 13 (HealthDay News) -- The HIV epidemic among gay men can't be explained by their number of sexual partners, U.S. researchers report.

More than half the new HIV infections diagnosed in the United States in 2005 were among gay men, a team at the University of Washington, Seattle, noted. In addition, as many as one in five gay men living in cities may be HIV-positive.

But the sexual behaviors of gay and heterosexual men in the United States may not be as different as most people think, the researchers said.

In fact, two surveys found that most gay men have a similar rate of sex with unprotected partners compared to straight men or women.

"Just because gay men continue to have much higher levels of HIV, we can't jump to the conclusion that that means that they are promiscuous or that prevention messages aren't working," said lead researcher Steven Goodreau, an assistant professor of anthropology.

In the study, Goodreau and a colleague, Dr. Matthew R. Golden, analyzed data from two large population-based surveys. Using those figures, they estimated how many sex partners gay men and straight men and women have, and what number of gay men have either insertive or receptive anal sex, or both.

The report is published in the Sept. 12 online edition of Sexually Transmitted Infections.

"We found that even if gay men behave the same way heterosexuals do -- in terms of sexual partner numbers -- gay men would still have a huge HIV epidemic," Goodreau said.

Conversely, "even if heterosexual men behaved the way gay men do, they would not have a huge HIV epidemic," he added.

In fact, for straight men and women to experience an epidemic of HIV infection as widespread as that of gay men, they would have to have an average of almost five unprotected sexual partners every year -- a
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