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Males at higher HIV risk

A recent survey reveals that the Indian heterosexual male will - more likely than not - fall prey to the HIV. Ignorance about safe sex have made most Indian males - heterosexual or otherwise - who visit sex workers, seek anal sex from them believing they would not catch HIV/AIDS.

india Updated: Oct 27, 2006 13:33 IST

Ignorance about safe sex have made most Indian heterosexual male, who visit sex workers, seek anal sex believing they would not catch HIV/AIDS.

This kind of behaviour among Indian male came out in a nationwide survey conducted by Naz Foundation International, an Indian NGO based in Britain which specialises in sexual and reproductive health of homosexuals and their partners in South Asia.

"The survey was conducted in 56 cities. We surveyed sex workers, who told us that their client demand anal sex. Most men think that it is a safe way of not contracting HIV/AIDS. But they don't know that it is ten times more dangerous and risky," Arif Jafar, the foundation's Executive Director, said.

"In most cases, they don't want to use condom or in situation where they don't have one, they feel this is the best way not to catch an infection. But this unprotected sex is dangerous for both of them," said Jafar.

The survey, which was conducted in cities like Varanasi, Allahabad, Jaunpur, Kanpur, Ghaziabad, Agra, Tuticorin, Thirunalveli, Hubli, Bijapur, Bellary, Nalgonda, Kakinada and Hardoi, showed that most men are ignorant about safe practices because the government has not been able to come out with messages and advertisements which throw up a clear picture.

"The issue is not just restricted to homosexual men. Many men, who are heterosexuals, sometimes prefer to have sex with men when they are travelling. But they do not consider sex with other men risky," said Jafar.

The survey was conducted to find out understanding, risks and behaviours prevailing in the country, especially among gays, he said adding sex education was absent among majority of the people covered in the survey.

"Knowledge of male and female bodies, of reproduction, of the sex organs was almost non-existent. This led to a variety of myths, beliefs and practices, which were accepted as true and helpful," he said.

What adds to the problem is that there were no appropriate condoms for anal sex available, he added.

"Condom use was determined primarily in terms of access, knowledge, shame, and sickness. With the condom equated with disease prevention, many participants either felt stigmatised through condom usage, or felt that their was no need to use condoms because either they or their sex partners were not sick," he said.

He said government needs to come out with clear messages or advertisement to clear myths.

"Sexual health information and services are primarily focused on so-called heterosexual behaviours and ignore the significant levels of anal sex, irrespective of the gender of the sexual partner.

"Formative research is urgently needed to understand how to design appropriate sexual health interventions regarding male to male sexual behaviours and men having sex with men," he said.