– The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is funding a study that seeks to discover a link between drinking and having sex among homosexuals in Argentina.

The study will send researchers to six bars in Buenos Aires to interview both patrons and proprietors in an effort to discover what it is about those bars that may encourage the risky behavior.

The study began on Sept. 30, 2008, and runs through Aug. 31, 2010. It already has cost taxpayers $198,776. By the time the project ends, it will have cost $403,902, according to NIH.

The grant, awarded to the New York State Psychiatric Institute, was provided by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the division of NIH that studies the effects of alcohol and alcoholism.

The study’s primary focus is to determine the relationship among drinking, bars frequented by homosexuals, and risky sexual behavior to see if certain bars in Argentina might be good targets for HIV-prevention campaigns. 

“Targeting public venues in Buenos Aires where men meet, alcohol is consumed, and sexual behavior occurs, the goal of this two-year exploratory study is to understand the various factors that contribute to the creation of a high-risk sexual space,” the study’s abstract explains.

“To that end, the study seeks to describe the relative contribution of physical characteristics of the place, patron characteristics, type and level of alcohol consumption, and social dynamics that are at play and potentiate each other to result in sexual risk behavior.”

The study has six goals, including the collection of information on six specific bars in Buenos Aires; the appearance, of those bars, alcohol availability, patrons, and types of sexual behavior taking place. The study also seeks to identify which factors contribute to alcohol consumption and sexual behavior in the bars.

“The specific aims of this study are to … 2) identify factors that contribute to alcohol use and high-risk sexual behavior in the venues,” says the abstract.

Researchers will interview 48 of the men who patronize the bars, as well as the bar staff to gather information on the types of alcohol consumed and sexual behavior engaged in.

“Venue patrons will also undergo a brief quantitative assessment to gather descriptive data on sexual behavior and substance use.”

After discovering why men who drink in these bars have homosexual sex, researchers will then try to discover whether it is possible to conduct anti-HIV interventions and how to conduct those interventions.

The study will “4) assess willingness of venue owners/personnel to partner with HIV prevention organizations in reducing HIV risk in these settings and [what] types of prevention programs they find acceptable.”

While the study is being conducted in Argentina, it is being funded with U.S. tax dollars.  The grant recipients–who could not be reached for comment–say in the abstract that information gathered in the bars in Argentina might help inform similar efforts in America.

“We expect findings to be useful in informing venue-based interventions for these types of venues in other countries.”

The study is among a number funded by the NIAAA to examine the relationship between drinking and the spread of HIV, including a study of tourism, prostitution, and HIV in the Dominican Republic and another study examining drinking and HIV among prostitutes in China.