Queensland Gay Periodic Survey researcher calls for PrEP as alternative to serosorting
The latest findings from the Queensland Gay Community Periodic Survey show gay and bisexual men continue to report high levels of HIV testing, but 15 per cent still say they have never been tested for HIV.
Conducted by the Centre for Social Research in Health, UNSW, over 1,500 gay and bisexual men took part in the 2014 survey, recruited from gay venues and events in Brisbane and Cairns, as well as through online networks.
Men in Queensland continue to report quite high levels of casual sex without condoms – over 40 per cent of men who have casual sex say they have had sex without condoms at least once (or one in five of all men in the survey).
Men who have sex without condoms generally try to reduce the chance of transmission by discussing HIV status. HIV-negative men in particular are increasingly likely to report serosorting – limiting sex without condoms to men who they believe are HIV-negative.
Associate Professor Martin Holt, lead investigator of the surveys comments, “Unfortunately, some of these men may have HIV and not know it, increasing the chance of new infections. Before they consider relying on serosorting, HIV-negative men should start to test for HIV three or four times a year.
“I’d also like to see them have some other options available, like pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).”
Scott Brown of the Community HIV Education and Prevention Program (CHEP), based at Queensland Positive People said the HIV Foundation Queensland is about to begin the QPrEP trial, recruiting men who have sex with men who do not consistently use condoms.
A community forum, ‘Let’s Talk About PrEP’, will be hosted in Brisbane by the HIV Foundation Queensland at 6pm on March16.
Michael Scott, executive director of the Queensland AIDS Council has also said that his organisation supports PrEP and is in the process of formulating an awareness campaign around the issue.
“With so much money spent on rapid HIV testing, it shows that this expenditure has not been targeted appropriately," he said.
“The recruitment for the periodic survey is at Pride or venues, and yet 15 per cent have never been tested for HIV. For me that shows the previous targeting of rapid testing has failed. That’s why we need to be fully refunded.
“We need a return to a peer-based approach to HIV prevention, that’s what’s been missing for the past three years in Queensland.”