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Stage management: understanding and impact of criminal prosecutions for sexual transmission of HIV among diagnosed gay men

12th annual CHAPS Conference (C12), Brighton, 3rd - 4th March 2009.

Speakers: Catherine Dodds

During the Relative safety II study about the meaning associated with unprotected anal intercourse (UAI) among homosexually active men with diagnosed HIV, many reflected upon how their approach to risk has changed since the emergence of criminal prosecutions in the UK. During the interviews, men were asked about issues such as: how they managed and communicated information about their own and their sexual partners’ HIV status, details about the most recent experience of UAI, and their awareness and experience of a range of HIV risk reduction strategies. At the end of the interview, respondents were also asked if they were aware of criminal prosecutions for the sexual transmission of HIV in the UK, what they understood these cases to be about, and how such developments might impact on their own and others’ risk practices. Specific analysis undertaken on the topic of prosecutions found that all respondents were aware of prosecutions, and extreme concern about being a potential defendant in such a case pervaded a number of men’s accounts of UAI and risk. For many others, such cases represented a somewhat removed, yet potential threat. Different men attempted to manage this risk in very different ways. In addition to its exploration of HIV prevention behaviour change in response to criminal prosecution, this paper describes more broadly the way in which men’s narratives on this topic indicate an increase in HIV-related stigma.

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