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As a vaccine for HIV/AIDS lies perpetually beyond the grasp of science, condom use remains one of the most effective safeguards against potential infection. Research reveals, however, that gay men are expressing apathy towards condom use and are partaking in increased sexual risk behaviours. Over the past eight years, gay men have accounted for a growing proportion of Canada’s total reported HIV infections, negating the substantial decline of infection rates between 1985 and 1999. Research pertaining to gay men and HIV/AIDS tends to involve the proclivity towards casual sex, drug use and risk behaviours, often ignoring a core element of transmission – HIV disclosure. The criminalization of non-disclosure within Canada introduced a new element into the convoluted issue of gay men and HIV/AIDS vulnerability. HIV positive individuals are required to disclose their HIV status to sexual partners when engaging in risky sexual activity. Few studies have explored the criminalization of non-disclosure’s affect upon sexual risk behaviour. Fewer still studies have examined HIV disclosure within the Canadian context. A dearth of knowledge surrounds gay men’s interpretations of these laws, what affect they have upon disclosure practices in the field and the techniques and processes by which gay men navigate, enact or neutralize this newfound responsibility. I plan to interview 15 HIV positive gay men about their HIV disclosure negotiation processes, condom use patterns and interpretations of their legal responsibilities. For it is only by acknowledging the perspectives of gay men on the frontlines of the epidemic that policymakers and health prevention workers will have any chance at ascertaining whether or not criminalization is having the desired affect upon the decision making processes and choices of individuals at risk, or if they merely serve to further exacerbate the state of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Canada.
- Are HIV positive gay men aware of the legal responsibilities and ramifications surrounding HIV infection and disclosure? What are their perceptions of these responsibilities?
- How do HIV positive gay men conceive of, contend with and respond to these laws?
- If they do disregard these legal responsibilities, what are their rationalizations and motivations?
- How do gay men negotiate HIV disclosure within their sexual and romantic relationships?
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