Gay men with AIDS in Los Angeles having more unprotected sex

Michael Carter
Published: 02 February 2004

The sexual risk-taking behaviour of gay men with AIDS in Los Angeles has changed dramatically in recent years, according to a small study published in the February 1st edition of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes. This is the latest of several US studies (see links below) to report significant changes in sexual behaviours since the advent of HAART.

Investigators from the Supplement to HIV/AIDS Surveillance Project (SHAS) study recruited 568 gay men diagnosed with AIDS to a cross-sectional population-based study that looked at their sexual risk behaviour. Between 1998 and 2003 the men completed a questionnaire reporting on the number of sexual partners they had had in the previous twelve months. From 2000, individuals were also asked to report if they had had unprotected anal sex with their last sexual partner.

Between 1998 and 2000 the number of men reporting ten or more sexual partners in a twelve-month period remained stable at between 8% - 10%, but increased significantly to 25% in 2003 (p=0.00005).

In 2000, 11% of individuals reported unprotected anal sex with their last partner, increasing to 26% in 2003. Because of the small sample size, investigators were not able to analyse these data for statistical significance.

”Although these data are limited to sexually active [men who have sex with men] diagnosed with AIDS, these findings…are consistent with the recent increase in reported syphilis” amongst gay men in Los Angeles, note the investigators, who also observe that 50% of syphilis cases in 1999 involved HIV-positive gay men.

These data suggest to the investigators that “sexual risk behaviours are continuing to increase in HIV-infected” gay men. This could be due to “safer sex fatigue”, increased sexual activity thanks to the health-improving effects of HAART, or a belief that HAART makes HIV less serious. Urgent individual and community-based HIV prevention efforts are needed, conclude the investigators.

Reference

Wohl AR et al. Recent increase in high-risk sexual behaviors among sexually active men who have sex with men living with AIDS in Los Angeles county. JAIDS 35: 209 – 210, 2004.

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