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Health

Few California
officials are ready to promote serosorting

Few California
officials are ready to promote serosorting

Although serosorting lowered San Francisco's HIV rate, few officials endorse the practice.

Although health officials in California credit a recent drop in HIV infection rates among gay men in San Francisco to serosorting--the practice of seeking out sexual partners of the same HIV serostatus as oneself--few AIDS experts and advocates are prepared to promote the practice, reports the Bay Area Reporter. The biggest concern for AIDS advocates is that serosorting could lead to higher rates of condomless sex because HIV-negative men would believe they're not at risk for HIV and HIV-positive men would not be worried about infecting their partners. But this could lead to infection with several other sexually transmitted diseases, and for HIV-positive men it could result in so-called "superinfection": infection with more than one strain of HIV.

Health officials also worry that HIV-negative men could still be putting themselves at risk by having sex with men who believe they are HIV-negative but either haven't been tested recently or have engaged in high-risk behavior since their last HIV antibody test. It's also possible that HIV-positive men could lie about their serostatus to avoid having to disclose their infections to potential sex partners, say AIDS experts.

Although the San Francisco health department has requested a grant to study the impact of serosorting, department officials still have no official position on the practice. "This is a strategy coming from the community," Tracy Packer, the department's interim HIV prevention director, told the Bay Area Reporter. But she did express concerns about the practice. "Serosorting is only as good as the honesty of the people involved," she told the newspaper.

The San Francisco AIDS Foundation this summer will begin a campaign that talks about serosorting as part of a larger slate of several risk-reduction behaviors, but the campaign will be educational--not promotional--in nature, say foundation officials. (The Advocate)

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