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HIV's Bisexual Bridge to Women

Risk Posed By 'Down Low' Men Still Unknown
WebMD Health News

July 13, 2004 -- Men who have sex with men and women are a "significant bridge for HIV to women," the CDC's new data suggest.

The findings come in a presentation to the XV International AIDS Conference in Bangkok by CDC researcher Linda Valleroy, PhD. The CDC's Young Men's Survey shows that about one in 10 men reporting sex with men also has sex with women. And more than one in four of these bisexual men has unsafe sex with both kinds of partners.

"Men who also had sex with women had similar levels of HIV and STDs [as exclusively homosexual men] and higher levels of many risk behaviors," Valleroy and colleagues note in their presentation abstract.

Another study presented at the AIDS conference -- based on interviews with nearly 2,500 bisexual men by the San Francisco Department of Health -- shows that 14% of men who have sex with men also has sex with women. But the study, led by Willi McFarland, MD, PhD, suggests that these men may have fewer risk behaviors than exclusively homosexual men.

"In San Francisco a few years back, we detected this rise in risk behavior in men who have sex with men," McFarland tells WebMD. "That raises the question of whether this will spill over into the general population, with the bridge being men who have sex with men and women. Despite dire predictions, San Francisco does not have a large heterosexual HIV epidemic."

What's going on? The reality is that nobody really knows.

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