Are Gay Couples Practicing Safe Sex Equally?

Condom use within gay male relationships may correlate to race

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) To use a condom or to not use a condom? For gay couples, the answer was different among different races.

A recent study shows that condom use among gay male couples was different between black, white, and interracial couples.

"Talk to your doctor about effective HIV prevention."

Researchers Dr. Colleen Hoff, professor of Sexuality Studies and Clinical Psychology, and Chad Campbell, director of the "You and Me" study at San Francisco State University, recently found a correlation between condom use and race within gay men during an AIDS study conducted in San Francisco and New York City.

The study was part of San Francisco State University's "You and Me" study and was led by Hoff. They interviewed gay male couples falling into three categories: black couples, white couples, and interracial couples.

They found that black men with black partners tend to consistently use condoms – regardless of HIV status; white men with white partners were conversely found to rarely use condoms – regardless of HIV status; interracial couples were divided between using condoms regularly and not using condoms.

Researchers also found that black couples tended not to discuss condom use because they considered it a given. White couples and interracial couples that did not use condoms tended to come to the decision after discussing the risks and benefits.

The white and interracial couples where HIV status differed between the two men revealed that the decision to not wear a condom was usually based on the health, medication use, and viral load of the HIV positive partner.

These couples explained that they believed the risk of HIV transmission to be lower in the case of a low viral load and use of medication.

However, that does not mean that a low viral load makes unprotected sex any safer. "When some individuals get tested and hear that they have a lower viral load, they might interpret that decreased risk as no risk and hence use no protection," Hoff said.

"It's a calculated risk that they are taking."

And while all categories of couples had at least some reports of breaking their condom agreement and having unsafe sex, their race tended to dictate how they dealt with it.

Black couples reported that after unprotected sex they discussed the situation, got tested and went back to using condoms, whereas white and interracial couples tended to continue having unprotected sex.

"We found that black and white gay men process the information they receive about HIV in different ways, and for black men using condoms is the default choice," said SF State researcher Chad Campbell.

This study was observational and published July 22 and was presented at the XIX International AIDS Conference on July 22-27 in Washington, DC. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health. The study was funded by the National Institute of Health.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 27, 2012
Last Updated:
May 15, 2014