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Bareback to basics: how gay porn undermines safe sex campaigns

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 25 March 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b910
  1. Richard Hurley, technical editor, BMJ
  1. rhurley{at}

    In the early days of the HIV pandemic in the 1980s, chilling advertisements included a tombstone-like monolith emblazoned with the AIDS acronym, while John Hurt cautioned, “If you ignore AIDS it could be the death of you, so don’t die of ignorance” (

    Such terrifying safe sex messages seem to have all but dried up, however. At the same time the depiction, indeed celebration, of unprotected anal intercourse in gay pornography has risen massively. The message this sends to young gay men that sex without condoms is OK is putting them at risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

    The essence of today’s sexual health messages is that, because of advances in testing and treatment, people with HIV live normal and healthy lives. Of course, the reality isn’t so simple, and AIDS has no cure. …

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