February 28, 2005
A New York City Health Department study presented Wednesday at the 12th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston reports that HIV-positive women in the city are more likely to have unprotected sex than infected gay or heterosexual men.
The anonymous computer-assisted study surveyed 1,106 HIV patients in 2004, of whom more than 750 reported being sexually active. Of women, 307 were sexually active, of whom 144, or almost half, said they had engaged in unsafe sex in the previous 12 months. Of 341 heterosexual men, 38 percent had unsafe sex the previous year. Fifty-one of 137 gay men -- 37 percent -- reported unprotected sex with men.
Participants' reasons for not practicing safe sex included partner's objection to condoms; no condoms available; safe sex was difficult to practice; and some partners who were also HIV-infected.
"People, even though they are infected, still need to use condoms," said Christopher Murrill, the department's research director. Condom use is important, he said, not only to prevent infected persons from spreading the virus, but also to protect infected persons from contracting other infections.
Participants in the study were patients at four city-run clinics. Murrill said it is not known whether they revealed their HIV status to partners. He also said the study could not show whether the infected women were actually practicing more unsafe sex or were simply more willing to report it.