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Study: 11% of
HIV-positive gay men choose abstinence

Study: 11% of
HIV-positive gay men choose abstinence

Most gay HIVers choosing abstinence cite a responsibility to protect others.

A new study by the Rand Corp. shows that many HIV-positive Americans choose to be abstinent, including about 11% of gay and bisexual men. The study, published in the June edition of the American Journal of Public Health, also showed that about 18% each of heterosexual men and heterosexual women are abstinent.

Until now "we really haven't had a good estimate of how many people who are HIV-positive have deliberately chosen to be sexually inactive," said Laura Bogart, a Rand psychologist and lead author of the study. "This information may be useful to those who create HIV education and prevention programs."

Rand researchers analyzed information from 1,339 people who took part in the HIV Cost and Services Utilization Study. Researchers found that 415 of study participants were sexually inactive, but 201 of them said they had deliberately chosen to be abstinent.

Gay and bisexual men who chose to be sexually inactive were most likely to do so out of a perceived responsibility to protect others, according to the study. Heterosexual men and women more often chose to be sexually inactive if they were in poor health. Gay and bisexual men, heterosexual men, and women were all less likely to be deliberately sexually inactive if they had a spouse or partner.

Researchers say that fewer HIV-positive gay men may choose abstinence compared to other groups living with the virus because being HIV-positive creates less stigma in the gay community than it does in the rest of society. At the same time, this community seems to forge a link between personal responsibility and sexual behavior, the researchers say.

"HIV-positive gay men may be more informed about less risky sexual practices," Bogart said. "We should increase education about safer sexual practices among other groups of HIV-positive patients." (The Advocate)

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