Is transactional sex among MSM in Mali a HIV risk factor?

Published: August 1, 2008

Is transactional sex among MSM in Mali a HIV risk factor?

Background: In most African countries, transactional sex between men and women and its implications on HIV risks are well documented, but nearly nothing has been written on transactional sex between men. Using the results of an anthropological research, I will analyze the logics of transactional sex among Malian MSM and their implications on HIV risks.

Methods: A field research was done in Bamako, Mali, from June 2003 to June 2008, through ethnographic observations and semi-structured interviews.

Results: In Bamako, one of the poorest cities in the World, sex between men is generally associated with money or gift giving. Same-sex practices are for the most part covert, and only few MSM consider and publicly identify themselves as homosexuals. Most MSM have a steady partner and one or several occasional partners. Furthermore, many MSM practice sexual intercourse with women and have a regular female partner. For many men, same-sex sexuality is an opportunity to reverse heterosexuality rules that suppose financial support of women by men; in long-lasting relationships between MSM, one partner provides for the needs of the other, as men do with women. Very often, monetary transactions go from the insertive to the receptive partner, but not always, as other factors can determine the transaction direction, such as age, position in social hierarchy, and desire or feelings.

Conclusions: As far as transactional sex between men supposes an inequality of power in the sexual intercourse or relationship, it can increase HIV risk taking, especially for the less powerful such as those involved in “survival sex”. Although the responsibility of the paying partner seems predominant, both paid and paying partners should be trained to negotiate or propose condom use.

-Abstract available at link below-

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