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.......2 Know........."Wow - You're Obsessed With Barebacking"............

........... This was one line from a conversation I was having with someone about my most recent poll.....

Am I obsessed with barebacking? Yes. Because I want to understand it. I also reaffirm that here on 2 Cents Worth Down Under, I will never write for or against barebacking. It is not my place to approve or disapprove of peoples' individual choices.

Before I get into it - the simple plain truth is that sex without a condom feels good. End of story. For tops it has enhanced sensation with no need to pause the passion to put a dom on. For the bottom, it is easier to take a cock due to lack of the issue of friction that even a well lubed rubber can produce. Not to mention those latext sensitivity/allergy. For those in relationships, it is described as the ultimate way to truly physically bond with a partner during sex.

.Now....Once upon a time in the 90's the resurgence of barebacking was a "push back" against a hardline culture of safe sex that was built on a foundation of shaming people who fucked sans condom. It was also somewhat rebellious in the fact that HIV took the "choice" out of whether to use protection or not and now imposed a measure of restriction that some people pushed back against. After the mass deaths of the 80's there was a quick and sharp response to the epidemic in Australia. Whilst the promotion of healthy and safer sex was comprehensive and very target group friendly, the response to those who admitted they barebacked was often harsh and disdainful. This was an approach, I believe, due in part to many educators and HIV health workers at the time who had suffered many losses. However, it was a tactic that ultimately failed.

In the early 2000's the psychology of barebacking shifted to a culture of the "gift givers" and "bug chasers". For me this was an alarming change of paradigm that I am still to fully understand. Whilst HIV treatments had certainly advanced by this time, they were still largely unsuccessful and the death rate was still significant.

Now in the 2010's barebacking has taken on an almost "extreme sport" culture. Just as in extreme sports where there is a significant risk of injury and death, it seems many view barebacking with a similar but morphed type of view. Given the permeation of the community with regards to HIV and STI information via the net, advertising campaigns and word of mouth/peer education, there are very few people who are truly ignorant of the risks. There is also a somewhat false view of the efficacy of treatments. Yes, treatments have advanced beyond what we initially ever hoped for back when I worked in sexual health between 91 & 95, but people are still dying. Non-compliance with treatment regimes. Uneven compliance. Genetic factors. Aggressive strains. These are all still killing people.

In 2009 (as supplied by the Mundi Index / there were 17,000 deaths in the USA, 1000 in Canada, 700 in Britain, and 100 in Australia. I reference these countries as they are countries with sophisticated and long term HIV health education programmes that have significant knowledge penetration into the community consciousness..... These are also countries where barebacking is now - depending on which source you speak to - the RULE not the EXCEPTION... Indeed, in my experience with sexual encounters, more often than not the bottom said I didn't 'have' to use protection if I didn't want to. I did, but was surprised at how few requested a condom. These were people from varied backgrounds, ages, professional and blue collar. Anecdotally, what does this tell us?

It says that at a fundamental, almost primal level, the safe sex message has failed. Why?, given that there are life threatening issues involved, how has this happened? What is it that has resulted in this behaviour becoming so wide-spread? Why have so many men, aware of the risks and consequences of HIV, chosen to engage in this behaviour?

The plain and simple truth is that there is no one answer... the answers - much like the virus itself - mutate and change faster than health education can keep up.

Shalom and Blessings to you all.

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