The use of Viagra by gay menFindings from the QUICKIE project for HIV educators and other health professionals may be highly valued because it protects men against the feelings of inadequacy interviewed in 2007 and 2008 about a range anxieties of performing sexually on demand. of topics, including their use of licit and Participants appeared to describe an erectile illicit substances. During analysis of men’s imperative—that they should be able to sexual activity, it was noted that a number required—and Viagra provided them with a of men described using Viagra to maintain condom use and/or counteract the adverse effects of illicit drugs on erectile function. Viagra and similar drugs were also valued for their ability to support condom use. had been prescribed Viagra to treat erectile using Viagra or similar drugs were therefore ‘recreational’ or non-prescribed use.
such as losing their erection when putting on a condom, reduction in sensitivity and problems in maintaining an erection when wearing a condom. These problems may be The majority of accounts of Viagra use by participants were overwhelmingly positive. are seldom acknowledged. Viagra therefore In particular, men emphasised how useful appeared to offer prophylactic certainty—the it was in compensating for difficulties in ability to sustain an erection when using a condom—and therefore the ability to sustain ‘[Y]ou’re having to roll that bloody thing [condom] on, and a lot of times you can’t stay hard by the time you’ve done flaccidity associated with the use of alcohol ‘I think it [Viagra] means you can have sex ‘I think the use of Viagra and those sort for much longer … very useful for safe sex. You don’t have concern that you are common than it used to be … and I think not going to be able to keep the erection.’ there’s an acceptance also of using it in terms of drugs, that in the past the drugs Viagra was valued by these men because it appeared to guarantee erectile performance you don’t need to worry about it, just take and because they felt it made it easier to use condoms. For gay men, like heterosexual men, the guarantee of erectile performance National Centre in HIV Social Research, The University of New South Wales, 2009 Barclay suggests that it has become accepted to use • Gay men’s descriptions of why they use Viagra reveal Viagra to offset the erectile problems associated with common problems with using condoms that may illicit drugs. There is a neat, pharmaceutical logic to this type of account: Why not take a drug like Viagra • Gay men may be motivated to use Viagra to sustain to solve the erectile problems caused by other drugs? condom use but the situations under which Viagra This makes perfect sense in a culture where drugs are is used (e.g. when intoxicated or using illicit drugs) increasingly seen as the ‘natural’ solution to diverse may be less than ideal for making clear decisions problems. However, others acknowledged that the circumstances under which Viagra is used by gay men are not always ideal for making decisions about safe sex: • Viagra is seen by some gay men as a simple, pharmaceutical solution to the challenge of ‘[Y]ou take a Viagra, you are hard enough to fuck sustaining condom use but it may in fact make with a condom, there is not that temptation of decisions about safe sex more complicated.
wanting to not have a condom, and you add drugs on top of that, and amphetamines are notorious for • Gay men appear poorly informed about Viagra’s killing erections, and plus your judgment becomes potential side effects, contraindications and ability to clouded on drugs, so you are now hard enough to fuck, but you are not going to be tempted to do it without a condom …’ The Qualitative Interviews Concerning Key Ben acknowledges that being able to have penetrative Issues and Experiences (QUICKIE) project sex while intoxicated (a situation enabled by Viagra) is was a qualitative study that investigated key a condition in which one’s ability to assess the safety aspects of gay men’s lives in Sydney, including or risk of that situation could be impaired and that, for sex, relationships, community engagement and various reasons including difficulties with condoms, men HIV. The project provided a way to contextualise may be ‘tempted’ to have unprotected sex. Rather than issues identified in behavioural research and to providing a neat, pharmaceutical solution, Viagra may identify emergent issues of relevance to gay men. in fact complicate the decisions gay men have to make Participants were sexually active HIV-negative and about sexual safety, or risk, by extending the period of HIV-positive gay men living in Sydney, New South time they can engage in penetrative sex, particularly Wales. Thirty-one men aged between 20 and 71 when they use stamina-enhancing illicit drugs.
were interviewed in 2007 and 29 men aged between 21 and 73 took part in 2008. Twenty-four of the men interviewed in 2007 were also interviewed in 2008. Sexual activity, condom use, safe-sex practice • Gay men value Viagra because it appears to and the use of licit and illicit substances were guarantee erectile performance, assists in topics covered in both years. All names attributed maintaining condom use and offsets erectile problems caused by alcohol and illicit drugs.
Thanks to all the men who participated in the study, the QUICKIE project reference group and NSW Health for For further information about the QUICKIE project, providing funding. The National Centre in HIV Social contact Dr Martin Holt at the National Centre in HIV Research receives core funding from the Australian Social Research, The University of New South Wales Government Department of Health and Ageing.


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