Configurations of barebacking in different relational contexts among participants of the "Net Gay Barometre 2009" survey in France: implications for preventive strategies

Published: July 21, 2010

A. Léobon1,2, J. Otis2, M.-C. Drouin3

1Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique / UMR ESO / PRES UNAM, Sciences de l’Homme et de la Société, Angers, France, 2University of Quebec in Montreal, Chaire de Recherche en Éducation à la Santé, Montreal, Canada, 3University of Quebec in Montreal, Sexology, Montreal, Canada

Background: Definitions of barebacking in the scientific community are heterogeneous, sharing a sole condition, the intentional practice of unprotected anal sex (Berg, 2009; Carballo-Dieguez et al., 2009). Beginning with the premise that it has multiple configurations, this study’s objective is to examine the relational, spatial, and organizational contexts of barebacking and the place of risk reduction in its practice.
Methods: Men were recruited between January and April 2009 (n = 19,052), through personalized e-mailings on nine major websites intended for the French MSM population. Men claiming to have engaged in “barebacking” (n = 3222) (defined simply as intentionally engaging in unprotected anal sex with no account of the HIV-status or type of partner) were divided into three groups according to the partner type with which they had barebacked (couple only, casual only or both couple and casual partners). A polytomous logistic regression analysis was conducted, with couple-only barebackers as the referent (n = 741) for the two other groups: casual-only barebackers (n = 1,284) and both couple and casual barebackers (n = 1,197).
Results: Casual-only barebackers differed in odds from the referent in sexual orientation, HIV-status, and the spaces in which they sought sexual partners while showing greater odds of risk reduction and of being preoccupied with a number of sexual health issues. Relative to couple-only barebackers, those who barebacked in a couple and with casuals had greater odds of substance use and of being preoccupied by sexual compulsivity.
Conclusions: These analyses suggest that if barebacking is practiced in three distinct relational contexts, these typologies point to different risk-reduction strategies, socio-spatial organizations of sexual practices and sexual health concerns. Using Intervention Mapping, through the Internet and online gay communities we can orient preventive or risk-reduction messages to the sexual health needs of these groups.

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