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The emergence of POZ Parties, parties exclusively for HIV positive men to meet other HIV positive men for sex -- signals the potential to spread HIV superinfection, suggests research in Sexually Transmitted Infections.
POZ parties first emerged during the mid 1990s in New York City, initially as informal gatherings for HIV positive gay men, to which recruitment was largely by word of mouth. They are now held several times a month, with information about venues posted on a Web site and emailed out to some 5,000 people. And the concept has spread to several other major cities across the United States, as well as to Canada, Australia, and Western Europe, say the authors.
The study involved a brief survey of a sample of 115 men attending one or more 10 POZ parties in New York during 2003. Researchers found that those attending the parties were predominantly white and over the age of 30. Respondents had lived with HIV infection from as little as two months to 20 years since diagnosis.
Three-quarters of the men said they had been to a POZ party before, suggesting that a substantial number were regular attendees. The men surveyed said that they had also used other venues to find sexual partners. The two most popular reasons for attending POZ parties were not having to broach the subject of HIV status with a new partner and a desire to have unprotected sex. One in eight men said that not infecting someone else was the main reason for going to a POZ Party.
Unprotected sex with several partners over the course of an event was common. Almost two-thirds said they had had receptive anal sex, while almost three quarters said they had had insertive anal sex. Two-thirds were taking antiretroviral drugs, and a third reported having had an additional sexually transmitted infection within the preceding year.
The researchers say that POZ parties have the potential to reduce the spread of HIV infection. But the risk of sexually transmitted infections remains a concern, particularly because the immune system response is already compromised in HIV infection. But they point out that the mix of high rates of unprotected sex and the use of other environments for sex may help to spread treatment resistant strains of HIV infection
Reference: An emerging HIV risk environment: a preliminary epidemiological profile of an MSM POZ Part in New York City Sex Transm Infect 2005; 61: 573-6