This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 16 table of contents.

The Impact of AIDS

In the early 1980s it became obvious that HIV, the virus that caused AIDS, could be transmitted through sexual activity. Researchers found that the probability of contracting the disease was strongly correlated with number of sexual contacts. One study found that homosexual men with AIDS had an average of twice as many lifetime sexual partners as homosexual men without AIDS. The earliest victims of AIDS sometimes had extraordinary numbers of sexual contacts.

What was true of the earliest AIDS victims?

In a 1982 study of 50 AIDS victims...the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta found that the median number of lifetime sexual partners for these men was 1,100, with a few of the men reporting as many as 20,000. The median number of different partners for a homosexual control group without the disease (a matched sample of 120 men) was 550. (Meredith, 1984)

Who is not at risk for AIDS?

Simply remaining monogamous, having only a single sex partner, is the surest way to achieve "safe sex." The AIDS virus can incubate for five or more years, so a partner's past history is relevant. One authority said the only people who are not at risk for AIDS are those who have been sexually abstinent or monogamous since 1972. Most of today's college students were born long after that, so the surest way for them to avoid AIDS is to avoid sex until they find a lifelong partner, and to insure their partner has done the same...and to avoid intravenous drug use, the other common way the AIDS virus is transmitted.

How did AIDS alter the pattern of male homosexual behavior?

Is monogamy the solution for gay males, as well? Meredith (1984) wrote a few years after the AIDS epidemic started, "...Questions remain as to whether most homosexual men really want or can have monogamous relationships." However, AIDS forced many male homosexuals to discontinue the previously common pattern of frequent, anonymous sexual encounters. More gay men began to seek lasting couple relationships.

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