Men who have sex with men (MSM) in China face a rapidly expanding HIV epidemic. Anal sex role plays a significant role in HIV infection. Research has already begun in China investigating the potential for circumcision-based interventions to slow the rise of HIV among Chinese MSM. Using peer referral recruitment, we sampled 491 men who reported anal sex role preference. We analyzed preferred anal sex role, enacted sex role during recent sexual behavior, and circumcision status and HIV infection among MSM in one Chinese city. Men reported on their anal sex role preference and reported on up to three male sexual partners. Men were asked to report on whether they were "top" or "bottom" with each of the partners. Those that preferred being bottom and versatile were significantly younger than those who preferred being top. Men who preferred bottoming and those that preferred the versatile role were significantly more likely to be HIV-infected than those who preferred to be tops. There was no significant association between circumcision and HIV infection among men who maintained their preferred top role. In terms of anal sex role behavior, prevalence was not statistically different across anal sex roles. Circumcision conferred no additional protection to men who preferred and who engaged the top role during anal sex. HIV interventions will need to address anal sex roles in more sophisticated ways than perhaps originally thought. Simplistic assumptions that anal sex role is a fixed behavior undermines interventions such as circumcision among MSM.
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