Nearly 50 percent of gay and bisexual men who use Manhunt, Growlr, Grindr and Scruff admit to practicing unsafe sex, according to a study by New York-based Community Healthcare Network. The study, which surveyed 725 men who use dating applications, found 47 percent of respondents admitted to risk-taking activities, including unprotected anal intercourse. Most of those who did said they were aware of the risks but chose not to use protection.
“The survey findings show a clear disconnect between the reasons why men engage in unprotected anal intercourse and the way prevention initiatives attempt to address risk behaviors,” said Renato Barucco, CHN’s transgender program manager.
While many respondents offered varying reasons for not using protection, 84 percent said condoms decreased the pleasure and 73 percent cited impulsive sexual behaviors. About 80 percent of respondents said they were aware of the risks of having unprotected sex and knew how HIV can be transmitted. Nearly 70 percent of respondents said they were afraid of becoming infected and said it is a serious issue for the gay community. Although a vast majority acknowledged the risks of having anal sex without using a condom, nearly half of respondents admitted to barebacking always, often or sometimes versus 53 percent who said they never engage in unprotected anal intercourse.
“Clearly, we’ve come a long way in educating people about HIV and AIDS. Yet among certain populations, HIV and AIDS is on the rise, and that’s alarming. We conducted this study as a result of a seeming correlation between an increasing use of mobile social networking apps designed for men to meet each other and an increase in HIV infections among (men who have sex with men),” said Freddy Molano, assistant vice president of HIV programs and services at CHN.
According to the CDC, there are nearly 2,700 people living with HIV/AIDS in Utah. However, the CDC also estimates that approximately 20 percent of those infected are unaware of their status.
There are various testing and prevention outlets in Utah and the Utah AIDS Foundation hosts free testing Mondays and Thursdays, 5–7 p.m. at the UAF offices, 1408 S. 1100 East, Salt Lake City. The Utah Pride Center also hosts free testing every other Wednesday from 5–7 p.m. at the UPC offices, 361 N. 300 West, Salt Lake City. Planned Parenthood has low-cost HIV testing and information. For more information, go to utahaids.org, utahpridecenter.org and plannedparenthood.org/Utah.
“We must address the complicated psychological, emotional, and behavioral variables that come into play during sexual encounters and that predispose target population to barebacking,” Barucco said. “Otherwise, the number of new infections among young gay and bisexual men will likely continue to rise.”