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AIDS and homosexuality
Jun 21, 2002

Is it true that male homosexuals are more likely to be infected by HIV? If it is true, then what is the cause? Is because of their sexual lifestyle, or because anal sex is more likely to spread HIV than vaginal sex. What does statistic have to say?

Response from Mr. Kull

Worldwide, the majority of cases of HIV transmission are associated to heterosexual intercourse: more than 75% of 40 million estimated cases. Depending on different variables (social, economic, behavioral), rates of infection will be higher among certain populations in certain regions.

In the United States, the highest number of cases of HIV transmission is among men who have sex with men. The reasons why this is the case in the U.S. are complicated to outline here; one important variable to consider is that, at least in the U.S., HIV disproporionately affects oppressed groups of people (gay men, injection drug users, people of color, women of color).

Transmission of HIV does not rely solely on "lifestyle" (I have a problem with that term: it's judgmental. A better term might be behavior, but even that carries judgmental overtones). Plenty of heterosexual people in the U.S. have anal sex with each other, and are at much less risk for HIV infection than gay men having anal sex. If that same heterosexual person had anal sex in, say, sub-Saharan Africa where the rates of infection among heterosexuals are much higher, the odds of that person getting infected with HIV increase tremendously.

Anal sex is considered to be a more efficient way to transmit HIV than vaginal sex, but transmission through vaginal sex is still pretty efficient. Other factors, like STD prevalence and circumcision, may account for differences in heterosexual transmission between the U.S. and sub-Saharan Africa.

RMK



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