Government minister Caroline Flint today announced that the Department of Health is to fund a major study looking at why some gay men appear to be taking more risks with their sexual health in recent years.

The results of the £40,000 study of existing data from the annual Gay Men’s Sex Survey is expected to help the NHS and gay men’s health organisations promote safer sex among the most at-risk groups.

Ms Flint was speaking at the 10th annual CHAPS conference on gay men’s HIV health promotion, organised by the Terrence Higgins Trust.

“It is obviously a great concern that there is a persistently high number of HIV transmissions among gay men in the UK – at least 2,400 diagnoses in 2005,” she said.

“The challenge for the NHS and for others promoting gay men’s health is how to address the diverse needs of those who have become sexually active in an age of effective HIV treatments, and since the AIDS campaigns of the 1980s.

“We need to look at what is stopping some individuals from sustaining safer sexual behaviour. The new study we are funding will help us do this.”

Ms. Flint also said that an extra £1m will be targeted this year at strengthening HIV health promotion work for gay men and African communities.

The study announced today will be a retrospective analysis of the extensive data collected from the annual Gay Men’s Sex Survey, which has surveyed over 120,000 men since 1997.

It will examine trends and changes during that time and look specifically at different groups of gay men that may be putting themselves at greater risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

Will Nutland, head of health promotion at the Terrence Higgins Trust said:

“For the last decade, we’ve known that HIV and sexual ill health impacts differently on different groups of men who have sex with men.

“The new research funding will allow for detailed analysis of sexual behaviour of gay men and bisexual men across the last ten years and the findings will help to shape and inform future HIV health promotion programmes.”