Study:  Safer-Sex Counseling for Gays May Backfire

from the ADVOCATE


A study conducted by a team of British doctors shows that efforts to educate gay men about safer sex may, ironically, have the opposite effect, prompting them to engage in riskier sex, Agence France-Press reports. Researchers at London’s Royal Free and University College Medical School studied 343 gay men who had an acute non-HIV sexually transmitted disease or who reported having unprotected anal intercourse during the previous year. All of the men took part in a 20-minute one-on-one counseling session on safer sex. In addition, 175 of the men were randomly selected to participate in a daylong intensive series of safer-sex workshops.

The progress of all the study subjects was followed for the next year. Surprisingly, the group that had taken part in the one-day session recorded more STDs during the follow-up period than the other study subjects — 31% of the one-day group had at least one new STD compared with 21% of those who attended only the 20-minute session. “Despite its promise and acceptability, the brief cognitive intervention aimed at gay men at risk of sexually transmitted infection did not reduce their risk of acquiring new infections,” the study authors wrote. “Even carefully formulated behavioral interventions should not be assumed to bring benefit.” The reasons for the one-day group’s increase in unprotected sex are unclear, although the researchers speculate the men may have gained “a misplaced sense of confidence in their ability to negotiate high-risk sexual situations.” The entire study appears in the June 23 edition of the British Medical Journal.