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Community Healthcare Network Releases New Report on Attitudes, Knowledge About HIV/AIDS Among Gay, Bisexual Men Who Use Social Networking Apps
-- Nearly Half of Respondents Admit to Practicing Unsafe Sex --- CHN Recommends Adding “Treatment as Prevention” to Public Health Prevention Efforts -(New York, NY) – Today, Community Healthcare Network (CHN), a New York City-based nonprofit that provides medical services and outreach and education programs to 75,000 individuals a year, released a new report on attitudes and knowledge about HIV/AIDS of men who have sex with men (MSM) and who meet their sexual partners through the use of geosocial networking apps like Grindr, Scruff, Manhunt, and Growlr on their mobile devices. In response to the findings, CHN is recommending adding pre-exposure prophylaxis, more commonly known as treatment as prevention, to the tools used to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. While HIV/AIDS rates have been on the decline for most populations and the annual number of HIV infections was stable between 2006 and 2009, there was a 45 percent increase in HIV in MSM (men who have sex with men) aged 13-29 (Center of Disease Control, 2011). In 2009, MSM represented approximately 2 percent of the US population, yet they accounted for 61 percent of all new HIV infections. According to the study, “Zero Feet Away: Perspective on HIV/AIDS and Unprotected Sex in Men Who Have Sex with Men Utilizing Location-based Mobile Apps,” nearly 50 percent of surveyed gay and bisexual men are knowledgeable about HIV/AIDS, and are afraid of getting infected or re-infected with the virus, yet persist to participate in risk-taking activities such as unprotected anal intercourse. “Clearly, we’ve come a long way in educating people about HIV and AIDS,” said Dr. Molano, Assistant Vice President of HIV Programs and Services at CHN, “yet among certain populations, HIV and AIDS is on the rise, and that’s alarming. We conducted this study as a result of a seeming correlation between an increasing use of mobile social networking apps designed for men to meet each other and an increase in HIV infections among MSM.” Dr. Molano authored the study along with Renato Barucco, Transgender Program Manager at CHN. The two researchers surveyed 725 participants utilizing social apps such as Grindr, Scruff, Manhunt, and Growlr. The survey focused on four main areas: perspectives on HIV/AIDS; perspectives on unprotected anal intercourse; HIV/AIDS knowledge; and, in an optional section, the reasons behind risk-taking behaviors during intercourse. The survey findings include:

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Respondents were sufficiently knowledgeable about HIV/AIDS. 80.9 percent of respondents knew that HIV is transmitted through “unprotected anal sex, vaginal sex, and – less frequently – oral sex.” A majority of respondents (68.1 percent) were afraid to be infected or re-infected, believe people should be more concerned about the epidemic, and view it overall as a serious issue. A majority felt that AIDS is a “somewhat serious” problem for people they know (52.5 percent), while 29.4 percent considered it to be a serious problem. The vast majority of respondents considered barebacking (defined as unprotected anal sex) dangerous and believed barebackers are informed of the risk. Yet, almost half of respondents (46.4 percent) admitted to barebacking always, often, or sometimes versus 53.6 percent who reportedly never engage in unprotected anal intercourse.

Respondents suggested several reasons for practicing unprotected sex, including:
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“With condoms it does not feel the same” (84.6 percent); “Impulsive sexual behaviors” (73.8 percent).

“The survey findings show a clear disconnect between the reasons why men engage in unprotected anal intercourse and the way prevention initiatives attempt to address risk behaviors,” said Renato Barucco. Existing prevention programs and initiatives focus primarily on HIV education, distributing condoms, and teaching people behavioral strategies to facilitate decision-making. According to the authors, service providers will have to refocus prevention efforts by integrating traditional messages about condom negotiation and condom use with new prevention methods, such as treatment as prevention. “We must address the complicated psychological, emotional, and behavioral variables that come into play during sexual encounters and that predispose target population to barebacking. Otherwise, the number of new infections among young gay and bisexual men will likely continue to rise,” continued Renato Barucco. Accordingly, CHN is recommending more comprehensive prevention strategies that include:   Behavioral strategies – individual, group, and harm reduction Structural strategies – social, cultural, legal, economic, and educational change

Community Healthcare Network is a leading provider for medical and social services for those with HIV/AIDS, as well as those who are at risk of contracting HIV. CHN has been involved in planning, developing, and providing HIV/AIDS services since HIV first appeared in New York City. In 2008 CHN received recognition from the National Quality Center for their use of the HIV Team Model. CHN was the first healthcare organization in the country to provide HIV testing via mobile van.

### About Community Healthcare Network Community Healthcare Network (CHN) is a not-for-profit organization providing access to affordable, culturally-competent and comprehensive community-based primary care, mental health and social services for diverse populations in underserved communities throughout New York City. CHN serves more than 75,000 individuals a year who would otherwise have little or no access to critical health care. CHN is composed of eleven Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and NCQA designated Level 3 Patient Centered Medical Homes (PCMH), a school-based dental clinic and a mobile health unit. To learn more about CHN visit our website at www.chnnyc.org or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

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