Casual hook ups top HIV transmission risk list: report
The latest HIV Seroconversion Study Report released today shows that HIV is still most likely to be transmitted by male-to-male sex and that barriers still exist for gay men to get tested for HIV.
The study, which has been ongoing since September 2007, is a collaboration between the University of New South Wales and La Trobe University along with state AIDS councils and People Living With HIV/AIDS organisations nationwide.
The report, Experiences of HIV: The Seroconversion Study Report 2013, states: “Few HIV infections among gay men are attributable to sex between regular male partners. HIV is far more likely to be transmitted via sex with a casual partner or a ‘fuckbuddy’.”
The study also shows that 88 per cent of all HIV transmissions occur as a result of male homosexual intercourse, as opposed to heterosexual contact (9%) and injecting drug use (1%).
The study points out that while there has been an increase in “high-risk” activities such as unprotected anal intercourse, there has also been a rise in other non-condom based risk management, something researchers say suggests “an evolving calculus of risk among gay men.”
The report also recommends changes to the way Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis and Post-Exposure Prophylaxis are handled in order to reap the benefits they can bring.
“There are multiple reasons why men avoid or delay testing in the months or years prior to their diagnosis, including the belief that they had not done anything ‘risky’, and fear of being told they were HIV-positive,” the report states
“Men who were less socially connected to other gay men were more likely to have avoided or delayed testing prior to their diagnosis.
“The decision whether or not to commence ART [Antiretroviral Therapy] by those newly diagnosed continues to be a challenging one,” the report continues.
“The anxiety of coming to terms with their recent HIV diagnosis, the stigma still associated with HIV, their relationship with their clinician and the broader community, and concerns and doubts about the ART treatment itself have all been raised by study participants and present very real challenges to health professionals, government and community organisations.”
The report concludes that gay men need greater tools and strategies in reducing risk, especially in short-term or non-committed relationships, and greater education for men on risk reduction strategies; earlier testing needs to be encouraged through community based peer-focused programs; and greater attention needs to be focused on the realities of undergoing treatment and addressing patients’ concerns.
In the next 12 months the study will focus on key issues such as why men delay getting tested, why so few people use PEP and PrEP, status disclosure, the experience of undergoing treatments and services and service gaps that exist for HIV positive people.
The ongoing Seroconversion Study is keen to hear from individuals who have been diagnosed in the last two years. For more information go to hivss.net