Study: Marriage bans tied to higher HIV rates

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imageWhen lawmakers in Georgia banned gay marriage in 2004, they had little idea they might be contributing to a rise in HIV infections.

But that’s the premise of a study released Thursday from Emory University, which shows that bans on same-sex marriage can be tied to a rise in the rate of HIV infection.

“Intolerance is deadly,” Hugo Mialon, an assistant professor of economics, says in a press release from the school. “Bans on gay marriage codify intolerance, causing more gay people to shift to underground sexual behaviors that carry more risk.”

The study found that laws against same-sex marriage boosted HIV cases by four per 100,000. Mialon and Andrew Francis (photo) used data from the General Social Survey, which tracks the attitudes of Americans during the past four decades. The researchers also found that a rise in tolerance from the 1970s to the 1990s reduced HIV cases by one per 100,000.

“We found the effects of tolerance for gays on HIV to be statistically significant and robust – they hold up under a range of empirical models,” Mialon says Hugo Mialon.

Emory says the study is the first in the U.S. to explore the impact of social tolerance levels toward gays on the transmission rate of HIV.

“Laws on gay marriage are in flux and under debate,” says Francis, also an assistant professor of economics, citing the recent decision by the California Supreme Court to uphold a ban on same-sex marriage. “It’s a hot issue, and we are hoping that policymakers will take our findings into account.”

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