Quantitative studies among men who have sex with men in India have shown high levels of unprotected anal sex. However, there is little information about the contexts in which such men may not use condoms. Relevant information on these contexts can assist in designing HIV prevention programmes to remove barriers to consistent condom use. As part of a larger study on sexual and social networks, we explored the contexts in which men who have sex with men did not use condoms, with a focus on personal, interpersonal and structural levels of experience. Data indicate the importance of understanding the different contexts that lead to unprotected sex but also reveal that the concept ‘context’ itself as a complex variable to consider in research of this kind, as research subjects interpret their social worlds and sexual risks in subtle and varied ways. Based on this viewpoint we make recommendations regarding HIV prevention.
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