January #131 : Discounted Labels - by Nick Burns

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Table of Contents

Labors of Love

The Kids Aren't Alright

With Honors

A Little Something on the Side

Even Combos Get the Blues

The Load Not Taken

HIV Bytes

Don't Get Fresh With Me

Discounted Labels

Thai-ing the Knot

Don't Leave Work Without It

Teen Angel

While You Weren't Sleeping

High Definition

Isn't That Special?

Prison Break

Anywhere but Here

Death and the Maidens

Diplomatic Immunity

Very Adult Education

On the Download

Face for the Cure

Tales From the Crib

Big Med on Campus

Editor's Letter-January 2007

Mailbox-January 2007

Catch of the Month-January 2007

Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle


Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV

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January 2007

Discounted Labels

by Nick Burns

Straight? Gay? Risky behavior is risky behavior

The first large-scale investigation comparing self-identified sexual orientation with sexual behavior, released by the New York City Department of Health last fall, reported that 10% of New York City men who identify as “straight” have had sex only with men in the past year. Media accounts used this to focus on the often sensationalized phenomenon of black men secretly sleeping with other men, dubbed the “down low,” instead of, as study authors had intended, the importance of targeting HIV prevention beyond merely men who call themselves gay. But while talk of the down low focuses on the black community, 38% of the study’s straight-identifying men who have sex with men (MSMs) were white, 23% were black and 29% were Hispanic. Preeti Pathela, DrPH, the study’s lead author, says, “When we think of down low, we think of men who don’t admit to having male sex partners. These men admit to it. What the study does show is that whether you are a health care provider or a sexual partner, it is important to ask about behavior.”

These MSMs were 40% less likely to have been tested for HIV and less likely to use a condom than men who identified as gay (though they did list fewer sex partners). “We’ve known that there are many MSMs who don’t identify as such for a long time,” says David Malebranche, MD, MPH, professor of medicine at Emory University. “I do give the authors credit for concluding that instead of getting bogged down in identity, we should focus on the fact that many of the men were having unprotected sex.” The majority of the men are married and foreign-born, and many current prevention messages targeted toward gay men and posted in places gay men frequent may never reach them. Donald R. Powell of Gay Men of African Descent (GMAD) says, “These men won’t step foot in GMAD, so we need to go where they are. We changed our outreach materials to say GMAD [and not spell out gay men]. Sexuality is and should be fluid.”

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