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Study finds lower-than-expected rates of unprotected sex in L.A. sex clubs

Study finds lower-than-expected rates of unprotected sex in L.A. sex clubs

A new study by AIDS Project Los Angeles shows that safer sex interventions at Los Angeles County commercial sex venues, including bathhouses and sex clubs, significantly reduced risky behavior that leads to the transmission of HIV. In the study, conducted by APLA's research department over a one-year period, commercial sex venue patrons who received on-site HIV prevention and harm-reduction education reported a significantly lower rate of unprotected anal intercourse than men who didn't participate in the outreach program. In the APLA study, approximately 26% of respondents reported unprotected anal sex in commercial sex venues. Most other similar studies of gay men find rates of between 30% and 40%. Men who participated in the program also reported lower use of crystal methamphetamine, poppers, alcohol, and Viagra; and higher awareness, use, and value of services such as HIV and sexually transmitted disease testing and prevention services, condom availability, and sex and substance abuse counseling. "Our findings suggest that our HIV and STD prevention interventions in commercial sex venues are having a real effect, leading to changes in sexual risk-taking," says Craig E. Thompson, APLA executive director, in a press statement. "Although these changes in patrons' behaviors may be attributable to many factors, we know that this is a difficult-to-reach population that may not be exposed to prevention messages in more mainstream venues such as bars or clubs." Concern about increased unprotected sex in gay commercial sex venues followed several Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports of syphilis outbreaks among gay men in several U.S. cities, including Los Angeles. These reports warned that increased rates of HIV transmission were likely to follow. The CDC has since reported that the syphilis outbreaks have not impacted HIV incidence rates among gay and bisexual men. APLA implemented a series of HIV prevention programs in several commercial sex venues in Los Angeles County, designed to both promote sexual health and reduce HIV risk behaviors among men who have sex with men. County funding for these programs was eliminated at the end of 2004.

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