Group Sex in Gay Men: Its Meaning and HIV Prevention Implications

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HIV/AIDS continues to pose a serious health hazard for gay men. Large numbers of men continue to become HIV infected each year, despite access to knowledge concerning how HIV is transmitted. Although gay men changed their sexual practices early in the epidemic, there is growing concern that there is a resurgence of risky sexual activities occurring in this group. Of particular concern is the resurgence of group sex activities. The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of group sex in gay men to gain insight into the meaning of group sex to these men, the context in which it occurs, and men's views of how group sexual encounters relate to HIV transmission. The study used a qualitative approach to data collection. Ten self-identified gay men who reported engaging in group sex activities were interviewed concerning their experiences. Men reported that the most likely place for them to engage in group sex activities was in sex clubs, and a majority of their discussions centered on these clubs. Study data were analyzed using content analysis. Two overall categories of responses emerged from men's descriptions of their group sex experience: sexual desire and HIV/STD risk behaviors. Four themes--access to sex, sexual excitement or stimulation, sexual options, and control and sexual freedom--comprised the category of Sexual Desire. The themes identified within the category of HIV/STD risk behaviors included reframing risk, rejection of safer sex, and alcohol and drug use. The findings of the study suggest that sex in group settings such as sex clubs is a reality that must be addressed by HIV prevention efforts. Additionally, results indicate that current HIV prevention messages are being rejected by many gay men and need to be reevaluated for relevance two decades into the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

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Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care

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