HIV Testing, Safe Sex Still Uncommon Among Young Gay and Bisexual Men
Nov. 16, 1999 (Atlanta) -- Young gay or bisexual men at high risk for
contracting HIV -- human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS -- continue
to engage in unsafe sexual practices and often avoid HIV testing, according two
Presented during the 1999 National HIV Prevention Conference in Atlanta, the
surveys showed that the risk of contracting HIV is still high among young men
who have sex with men. But those who know their HIV status -- and especially
those who are HIV-positive -- are more likely to avoid risky sexual behavior
than those who haven't been tested, the researchers found.
The findings highlight the importance of early HIV testing and counseling,
the researchers tell WebMD.
"This [study] underscores the importance of [patients] knowing their
[HIV] status and their partners' status," says Paul Denning, MD, MPH, who
conducted one of the studies. "Testing can have a dramatic impact on
patients' behavior. ... [And] it's important to get people into care, because
it can have a dramatic impact on quality of life." Denning is with the
CDC's HIV/AIDS Surveillance Branch. His survey was conducted in 12 U.S. cities
and included nearly 1,500 people aged 18 to 29 who had been recently diagnosed
with either HIV or AIDS.
In the second survey, involving almost 3,500 men between the ages of 15 and
22, HIV counseling and testing were included. The researchers found that while
7% of survey respondents actually had HIV, 35% had not been tested before. The
seven-city survey produced some surprising results, researcher Linda Valleroy,
PhD, tells WebMD -- namely that HIV infection rates are almost as high in many
other large cities as they are in San Francisco. "The CDC ... found the
prevalence [of HIV in San Francisco] to be 9%. When we started we were hoping
that San Francisco was a fluke," Valleroy says. "But it wasn't, because
we got numbers like San Francisco in these seven cities across the country,
where HIV prevalence ranged from 2% to 12%." Valleroy is an anthropologist
and epidemiologist with the CDC's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention.
Valleroy and fellow researchers found that the young men who hadn't been
tested for HIV prior to the survey cited three main reasons: a perceived low
risk (44%), fear of the test result (38%), and fear of needles (18%).
The CDC has begun new research to determine the best approach for launching
a media campaign to promote HIV testing, says Denning.