HIV in the leather community: Rates and risk-related behaviors

David A. Moskowitz*, David W. Seal, Lance Rintamaki, Gerulf Rieger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


There exist many subcultures of men who have sex with men (MSM), all with differing values and health behaviors. The Leathermen comprise one such subculture, which is characterized by a heightened valuation of hypersexuality and adherence to sexual control dynamics (i.e., submission and dominance). No previous research has specifically examined this community for differences in sexual health (e.g., HIV rates) and sexual health behaviors (e.g., condom use). We conducted a large survey of men (N = 1,554) at one leather and non-leather event, collecting data from 655 Submissives, Dominants, Switches, and non-orienting Leathermen. Leathermen were 61% more likely to be HIV-positive than non-Leathermen. Decreased condom use found in HIV-positive Leathermen (relative to HIV-positive non-Leathermen) was a potential factor contributing to heightened HIV rates. Universal low condom use in Submissives engaging in receptive, and Dominants engaging in insertive, anal intercourse was an additional trend that potentially contributed to increased numbers of HIV-positive Leathermen. Our recommendation is for heightened awareness of the risks associated with sex among Leathermen, especially unprotected anal intercourse with sero-uncertain Submissives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)557-564
Number of pages8
JournalAIDS and behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2011


  • Bondage
  • Condom use
  • HIV
  • Leather community
  • MSM
  • S/M
  • Submission/dominance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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