The 130th Annual Meeting of APHA

4199.0: Tuesday, November 12, 2002 - 3:00 PM

Abstract #35282

Heterosexual context, "non-gay" identity, and male-to-male sexual activities in India: Implications for HIV transmission and prevention

Gauri Bhattacharya, DSW, School of Social Work, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1207 W. Oregon Street, Urbana, IL 61801, 217 544-5222,

This study explored male-to-male sexual activities that heterosexually identified males may engage in various social arrangements in India. Implications of the study findings for understanding the HIV transmission modes and developing HIV infection prevention programs in India were discussed. Methods This community-based study was conducted in India. Sixteen participants included adult males and service providers in HIV prevention programs. A semistructured interview guide was used for in-depth interviews. The text of the audiotaped interview was transcribed, coded, and organized for the presentation in this study. Empirical and scientific data on HIV infection and transmission and literature on Asian Indian culture complemented this study. Findings Male-to-male sexual activities were reported common for having “fun” (masti) and or for initiating sexual experiences. Procreation determined the socially prescribed gender identity in heterosexual relationships. Married and heterosexually identified men may practice occasional or regular male-to-male sexual activities for sexual pleasure and satisfaction. Male-to-male sexual activities were not equated with sexual identity as “gay”, “bisexual”, or “homosexual.” The Indian Penal Code 377 criminalizes “homosexual” behavior. Conclusions Social, cultural, and legal contexts shape the expression of heterosexual identity In India. Understanding the ways in which contexts attach meanings to sexual activities is critical. For understanding the epidemiology of HIV transmission and for preventing the risks of the transmission of HIV that an individual may be exposed to in multiple social arrangements in India, interventions must target unsafe sexual behaviors, rather than relying on specific classification of self based on sexual identity.

Acknowledgements: This study was supported by a grant from the International Council, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Gauri Bhattacharya: Principal Investigator, 2001-2002)

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Sexuality, HIV Interventions

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

International HIV Issues: Asia and South Asia

The 130th Annual Meeting of APHA