US: Study shows men at risk of HIV infection may misjudge their vulnerability

Alice Milliken June 30, 2014
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A survey conducted in the US shows many men who have sex with men may not be aware of their risk of HIV infection.

The field researchers working on this study, who do HIV testing and research in commercial sex venues and public bath houses in NYC, said the low perception of risk suggest people need to be educated about their risk of infection and how to prevent it.

Dr Demetre Daskalakis, the study’s senior author from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, said: “It seemed as if it would be an opportune time to ask the population where they were in accessing their own risk given that PrEP was recently approved.”

PrEP, pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a new one-a-day pill for individuals who are not infected but are at risk of contracting HIV. The pill approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for PrEP is Truvada, manufactured by Gilead.

629 men were surveyed from June 2011 to June 2012. They were considered eligible candidates for the study if they filled certain medical criteria including: having anal sex with three or more partners, having condomless anal sex with a partner who is HIV positive or of unknown status and having a recent diagnosis of a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Of the 629 men surveyed, 505 met the above criteria and 78% of those men said their sexual behaviour didn’t warrant concern for HIV infection, or use of PrEP.

Although the group studied, men attending bathhouses and sex clubs in NYC, are not representative of the larger community of men who have sex with men across the United States, self-perception of HIV infection risk among this demographic is low.

Individuals who take PrEP regularly have up to 92% lower risk of HIV infection than those who do not take the medication, according to the US Centre of Disease Control (CDC).

16% of the more than 1.1 million people in the US infected with HIV are unaware of their infection, according to the US Department of Health a Human Services.

Update: This story originally noted that “gay, bisexual and transgender men” were at greater risk of HIV infection, however this was changed to “men who have sex with men”, which more accurately describes the at-risk group.

More: HIV, medical study, US

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