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Young MSM in Club and Bar Scene at Risk for HIV
by Jon Garbo

Young gay and bisexual men who frequent clubs and bars put themselves at high risk for HIV infection, according to a study presented at the American Public Health Associationís annual meeting, held from November 12 to 16 in Boston, Massachusetts, Reuters reported December 26.

"These are shocking numbers, and those of us who work in HIV prevention are alarmed."
Researchers from the John Hopkins University School of Public Health interviewed 61 men age 15 to 22 who have had sex with other men and who have attended gay nightclubs or bars in Baltimore, Maryland. Twenty-one percent of the men reported being under the influence of drugs or alcohol and over a third said they did not use a condom during their most recent sexual experience. HIV testing revealed that 9 percent of participants were seropositive.

"These are shocking numbers, and those of us who work in HIV prevention are alarmed," John B. Hylton, the studyís co-author and presenter, told Reuters.

The success of antiretroviral therapy may cause some young men to be complacent about safer-sex, Hylton suggested. "What youíre seeing in the popular media is that HIV isnít such an awful thing to have, that it is a manageable, chronic disease," Reuters quoted Hylton as saying. "Thatís changing young menís thoughts about the dangers of contracting it."

Also, many young men havenít been exposed to the ravages of AIDS. "[They] havenít seen men with AIDS walking down the street covered with Kaposiís sarcoma, or men wasting away to nothing," Hylton explained.

Young men who do not have a social support system to help them confront issues of sexual identity and behavior may also be more prone to high-risk sex, Hylton added.

"We need to be out there reminding people that thereís still an epidemic: AIDS hasnít gone away," said Hylton. One way to combat infection, he added, was through outreach in bars and nightclubs.

Updated: Friday, 29 December 2000


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