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Scott O'Hara, a gay man with HIV, said: "I'm tired of using condoms and I won't, and I don't feel the need to encourage negatives to stay negative."

Barebacking is some kind of fucking without condoms. Most men use condoms most of the time. That said, condom-less shags are nothing new - they were going on before HIV, they will be going on tonight, and there is no reason to think they won't continue tomorrow. It can be difficult to measure up to expectations created by ourselves, other gay men and HIV prevention workers. If two guys decide to fuck without condoms there will always be someone who will be critical or damning. However, we should be mindful of their informed decision.

Some UK HIV prevention agencies have responded to this new word, producing campaigns and resources which talk about it. Unfortunately, this is a prime example of ill-thought out campaigning since a clear definition has not been forthcoming. If they haven't actually worked out what they really mean - how can they communicate their concerns intelligently? This lack of clarity has only served to confuse gay men.

It's too easy to think of men who fuck without condoms as stupid, foolish or irresponsible. Lots of us have lots of reasons for having sex without condoms. Sometimes this leads to HIV and STI infection and sometimes it doesn't. The point is we need to talk about our desires, fears and concerns, explaining what we really mean. Otherwise we risk talking at cross purposes and that seems to be what is happening at the moment. The barebacking debate is set to continue with plenty of fuel to add to the fire as some HIV-positive, HIV-negative and untested gay men continue to openly seek condom-less shags. We need to ask ourselves why we might want to fuck without condoms, what the risks might be and whether we are prepared to taken them.

Fucking without condoms

More often than not we don't use condoms:

  • Because of who we are with eg someone we love, someone we think is more attractive than we are, someone we assume is HIV negative or HIV positive, like us.
  • Because of where we are having sex eg a rush job in the club loos.
  • Because of how we are feeling eg 'when I'm sad I want him to show me how much he loves me,' 'because I'm up nothing bad can happen to me.'
  • Because of the situation we find ourselves in eg 'he's taking the lead, I can hardly ask him to use a condom.'
  • Because we've been drinking or doing drugs eg 'it'll be okay, anyway I don't care, I can't remember what a condom is!'

Often it isn't until later that we begin to worry about it. We can blame it on the sunshine, the moonlight or even the boogie, but whatever the reason, it was your decision.

So what could unsafe sex mean for you?

  • A whole range of sexually transmitted diseases can be passed on by unprotected fucking.
  • It puts you more at risk of getting, or giving hiv.
  • If you are hiv positive, getting an STI is the last thing you need. They are often difficult to treat, they increase your viral load and put a greater strain on your immune system.
  • If you fuck with someone on anti-hiv therapy you may become infected with a strain of hiv which is resistant to some of the anti-hiv drugs (and there aren't that many drugs available).
  • If you are hiv positive already, it puts you at risk of re-infection with a more serious strain of hiv.

There may be times when sex without condoms is less risky, what you need to know is when and how.

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