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Recent studies of gay male sexual behaviour have employed a concept new to the literature in the area. Men who appeared to have adopted safer sex behaviours and are now having ‘unsafe’ sex in relation to possible infection with HIV are described as having ‘relapsed’. In this paper we critically evaluate this concept. Firstly we undertake a methodological critique, looking in some detail at studies which have used ‘relapse’. We then provide a conceptual critique, suggesting that the construction of human sexuality implicit in the use of this term is inappropriate to the study of sexual behaviour. Finally, we suggest why a concept such as relapse should appear in the literature on the HIV/AIDS epidemic at this time. Copyright © 1992, Wiley Blackwell. All rights reserved

Original publication




Journal article


Sociology of Health & Illness

Publication Date





216 - 232