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The impact of AIDS on the comping out process for gay men

1 June 1987


Currently in the United States, gay men are the highest risk group for contagion of the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) virus. This study's hypothesis was that AIDS will have a detrimental impact on the continuing coming-out process for gay men. A questionnaire was distributed to a diverse array of sources in the greater Portland metropolitan area. Of the four hundred questionnaires distributed, there were 103 respondents to this survey yielding a 26% return rate. The dominant composition of this respondent group was Caucasian, middle class, and well-educated; having white collar or skilled occupations; in the 25-39 age range and residing in the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area. A vast majority of the respondents identified themselves as exclusively or predominately gay (95%), as satisfied with their sexual identity (89%), and as satisfied with the number of people who knew about their sexual orientation (72%). Over one-half had some form of psychotherapy in the last five years (51%) and nearly one-half (48%) were currently in an ongoing, committed relationship.

The data supported the hypothesis that AIDS does have a detrimental impact on the coming-out process for gay men. Ninety-nine percent of the respondents indicated their feelings were affected by AIDS with 76% of this group rating the impact of AIDS as strong to completely upsetting to their lives. Ninety-three percent of the respondents knew at least one person who had died from AIDS and 73% of this group rated this impact as strong to completely upsetting. Fifty-six percent of all the respondents stated that AIDS does have a detrimental impact on their coming out process. Of this group, 70% stated they would probably withhold disclosure about themselves while 30% stated they would probably engage in premature disclosure. Since the data ' shows AIDS does have a detrimental impact, the need for more research on the psychological impact of the virus and the availability of mental health services is vital.


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