Barebacking and the Risk of STDs

Unprotected Anal Intercourse

Barebacking is the term used to describe men who have unprotected anal intercourse. It is a practice that is on the increase. There are dangers, especially if you get involved in casual sex with someone you do not know.

HIV/AIDS has had a profound effect on attitudes and sexual behaviors within the gay community. Safe sex practices, especially within the gay community, were taken very seriously. Condom sales increased, sexually transmitted diseases (STD) decreased. People understood the seriousness of the message. So why are more gay men reversing the trend and taking the risk of having unprotected anal intercourse?

A couple lying in bed together
Steve Prezant / Image Source / Getty Images

Why Risk It?

There are a number of possible reasons. Since the early days of HIV/AIDS, a new generation of gay men have grown up with an acceptance of the hazards of unprotected sex. The potency of the safe sex message has perhaps diminished over time and this has been helped by advances in AIDS treatments.

Another common issue is the condom. Condoms are generally viewed by men as less satisfactory and less pleasurable. There is a perceived lack of spontaneity involved and it can be expensive if you're on a limited income.

There is, of course, no risk involved in barebacking if both men know that they are not infected with HIV. It can provide an incentive to remain monogamous when you are both committed to the relationship.

If you bareback with someone who is infected with HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or some other STD, you are risking your health and ultimately your life.

Remember, infected people may appear symptom-free so even if your sexual partner looks fit and healthy it can actually mean very little.

Many gay men involved in health care believe that there is an increasing number of men who believe the treatments now available are so effective that HIV and AIDS no longer pose such a risk. The belief that even if you get AIDS it will not really be that much of a problem to live with is simply not the case. It is true that treatments have improved a lot, but HIV claims the lives of many each year.

People infected with HIV and AIDS are living longer if they have the right drugs and supportive treatments, but there is still no cure. HIV is not one disease. There are a number of different types, more than 10 subtypes in fact, which result in countless strains. If, for example, you catch a second or third strain, it causes what researchers are calling a “superinfection”. It dispels the myth that HIV-positive partners can have unsafe sex without re-infecting each other.

Is It Worth Taking a Chance With Barebacking?

When you're having fun, drinking or clubbing, the reality of AIDS and the safe sex messages can seem a long way off. You can continue to ignore or dismiss advice and live for today. Maybe you have not had the experience of losing someone close to you, watching their suffering or their death from AIDS, a related disease or liver failure?

Unprotected sex is a form of gambling more akin to Russian roulette. There is really no measure of probability you can apply. You may get away it, but you may not and the price you pay is a very high one.

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Article Sources
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  • "HIV/AIDS among Men Who Have Sex with Men." Division of AIDS/HIV Prevention. July 2006. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • "Male Latex Condoms and Sexually Transmitted Diseases." CDC’s National Prevention Information Network. Jan 2003. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Lee, Christina, and R. Glynn Jones. The Psychology of Men's Health. Philadelphia: Open University press, 2002.