Monday, September 18, 2006

An Interesting Study in NYC

An article appeared in the journal of The Annals of Internal Medicine (no jokes please) that relayed an interesting finding. The article said,

A study published in the [The Annals of Internal Medicine] found that a survey of 4,193 men conducted by the New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene found that 10% of the men who identified themselves as heterosexual, 69 percent of them who reported having had sex with other men were married. (You'll need to scroll down toward the middle of the report under the heading, Results, Male Survery Participants. Or, you can go here to read Yahoo's news summary of the article.)

Many admitted they had not used a condom and had not been tested for HIV.

"Doctors need to ask patients about specific sexual practices instead of relying on self-reported sexual orientation to assess risk for unsafe sexual practices and risk for sexually transmitted diseases," said Preeti Pathela, who led the study.

"Public health prevention messages should target risky sexual activities, such as unprotected receptive anal sex, and should not be framed to appeal solely to gay-identified men."

(The bolding and italics are mine, which I added for emphasis.)

Now, I don't know why these particular men were interviewed by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in the first place or the particular sampling method used, but the findings are more than interesting.

To suggest that such a high number of married men (10%) have had gay sex within the past year with at least one partner is rather shocking, right? I mean, had the number been closer to 2% we could strug our heads and say, "Eh, people do as people do, you can't expect anyone to figure in that small percentage into the equation of HIV transmission, education, or public service announcements." But when the figure is almost 10%, is says, "Heyyy!!! Is anyone paying attention here?! This is important!"

Sure, those living in New York City are living in a city with perhaps the most lax sexual mores and those living in NYC are not like the typical American city- but it makes me wonder how men in other towns, smaller cities, or in the country would report. I remember a friend of mine who lived in Oklahoma. I asked him how many men in his small town (of Davis, OK) did he think were gay. He said I was asking the wrong question. He said, "Are you asking how many men have sex with men, regardless of whether they are married or not?" I said, "Eh, sure." He said at least 50% of the guys he knew, whether married or not, have had sex with other men.

We need to get past the mindset that says, 'If we don't talk about it, people aren't doing it." Or, to realize the addage that if we DO talk about it, more people will do it. Heck, more people already ARE doing it and we need to keep this little tidbit in mind when we think of public policy, AIDS awareness, and societal expectations.

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