Gay men with HIV are reducing risks
One person well find this to his liking
by Eric Johnston
Most HIV-positive gay and bisexual men are taking steps to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to their sexual partners, according to a study released last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Between May 2000 and December 2002, the CDC surveyed more than 1,900 gay and bisexual HIV-positive men who have sex with other men.
The men surveyed said they were 3.5 times more likely to use condoms when having sex with HIV-negative partners than when having sex with other HIV-positive men. They were also significantly less likely to have insertive anal intercourse (IAI) with their HIV-negative partners.
Howard Grossman, the executive director of the American Academy of HIV Medicine, told the PlanetOut Network the new data shows that most HIV-positive men are making "rational choices," and it dispels a stereotype that gay men tend to engage in reckless sexual behavior.
"We've been getting this message that somehow gay men are irresponsible in spreading HIV and STDs (sexually transmitted diseases)," he said, "and this survey shows men do care and they are taking some precautions."
Additionally, 31 percent of the men surveyed reported abstaining from sex for the previous year. Among those who were sexually active, 35 percent reported having only one partner.
"This is positive news from an HIV prevention perspective," Lynn Schulman, spokeswoman for the New York-based Gay Men's Health Crisis, said about the study findings. "We must remain unwavering in our commitment to ensuring that the prevention needs of gay and bisexual men living with HIV are salient, reinforced and sustained over time."
Despite the data detailing that safer practices are the norm, some of the men surveyed said they continued to engage in behaviors that place their partners at risk. Of the men who reported having insertive anal intercourse, 14 percent had unprotected IAI during their last sexual encounter with a negative partner, while 25 percent had unprotected IAI with a partner of unknown status.
The report's information is somewhat limited because this study only asked about behavior at the last sexual encounter, so it is unclear whether these behaviors are isolated or frequent.
The CDC concluded that the findings underscore the need to help HIV-positive individuals maintain safer behaviors over the long haul.
The study did not address risk of spreading STDs other than HIV through oral sex. The survey found 85 percent of sexually active men surveyed had oral sex during their last sexual encounter.
"The challenge for health practitioners is that a lot of diseases can be transmitted simply by oral sex, and we need to look for them," said Grossman.
"Gonorrhea is a perfect example. We have to look for it. If you don't do a throat culture, you won't find it," he said.
Posted October 4, 2004