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AIDS Care. 2009 Jun;21(6):675-82. doi: 10.1080/09540120802511919.

Self-reported altruistic and reciprocal behaviors among homosexually and heterosexually experienced adults: implications for HIV/AIDS service organizations.

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Department of Epidemiology, UCLA School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles, USA.


Prior studies find that gay men and lesbians volunteer in HIV/AIDS service organizations at high rates. However, no population-based study has investigated the mechanisms involved. Using data from the General Social Survey, a nationally representative biennial survey that in 2002 and 2004 interviewed 2031 sexually experienced adults, the authors examine levels of empathic concern, altruistic values, and the past year occurrence of altruistic and reciprocal behaviors among homosexually and exclusively heterosexually experienced adults. Overall, women reported higher levels of empathic concern and stronger altruistic values relative to men while men reported engaging in a wider variety of altruistic behaviors than did women. In gender-specific comparisons, homosexually experienced men reported stronger altruistic values than did exclusively heterosexual men but levels of empathic concern and the range of altruistic and reciprocal behaviors engaged in did not vary appreciable. Among women, homosexually experienced women reported engaging in a wider range of altruistic behaviors than exclusively heterosexual women, but did not differ in their levels of empathic concern or strength of altruistic values. Findings support the existence of some small sexual orientation-related differences in altruistic values and altruistic and reciprocal behaviors. These have implications for HIV-related volunteerism. One surprising finding in this study was that approximately 17% of homosexually experienced men had donated blood in the year prior to interview despite the prohibition against doing so.

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