By the late 1980s and early 1990s, in the United States, most sexually active men who have sex with men (MSM) involved in relationships outside their regular partner were routinely practicing safer sex most of the time. Gay men had learned to use condoms correctly, had reduced their number of partners, and were engaging in less risky sexual practices. Many had participated in HIV risk reduction workshops targeting the gay community. Others were serving as “buddies” to assist gay men with AIDS through their local AIDS community-based organizations. Today, things have changed. “Barebacking” (anal sex without condoms) has increasingly become acceptable behavior. In 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reevaluated their data and concluded that the number of new cases of HIV infection per year was not 40,000 as estimated, but rather was closer to 56,300, and it had been at that level for several years. Applied medical anthropologists are in a unique position to understand the dynamics of HIV risk among MSM throughout the world and to contribute to the amelioration of this health crisis.
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