QUEER VOICES
07/10/2013 04:51 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

'Can Barebacking Be Safer Sex?'

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In 1997, Tony Valenzuela was an up-and-coming LGBT rights activist, open about his HIV-positive status and viewed by many as a beacon of the movement’s future. But the goodwill soured when, during an impromptu speech at the Creating Change Conference, he talked about the gay sex that dared not speak its name: barebacking. “Naively, I did not believe it would be controversial to discuss openly what I knew many of us were experiencing privately,” he recalls. But controversial it was. Valenzuela was both pilloried and praised—which landed him in 1999 on one of POZ’s most memorable covers, riding a horse, sans saddle. Meanwhile, the term “barebacking” became branded, indelibly, into our discourse.

Much has changed on the HIV landscape since then, but our attitudes about gay sex remain stuck in the age of the dial-up modem. Just this year, New York City researchers Luis Freddy Molano, MD, and Renato Barucco released the results of their survey on the sexual habits of gay men who seek partners via hookup apps like Grindr. One finding made headlines as if it were a national scandal: Nearly half of them didn’t use condoms.

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