Belgium, United Kingdom: Young Gay Men Ignoring Safe Sex, HIV Study Warns
September 9, 2010
New research shows that public warnings and campaigns about the dangers of unsafe sex do not appear to be getting through to young men who have sex with men (MSM).
Scientists at Ghent University in Belgium analyzed the genetic profile of HIV in more than 500 newly screened patients over nine years and found one "striking and alarming" cluster of cases. Over the study's timeframe, 57 men acquired genetically very similar viruses, with eight doing so in the last year, reported Kristen Chalmet and colleagues from the AIDS Reference Laboratory at Ghent.
"Members of this cluster are significantly younger than the rest of the population and have more chlamydia and syphilis infections," the investigators wrote. Even excluding that group, there was still an association between HIV and contracting syphilis, which suggests risky sexual behavior.
Of the two HIV types identified, the vast majority of cases within Belgium were sub-type B, and those infected were MSM. The non-B infections were more likely to be found among heterosexuals and to have been acquired in other countries.
"We clearly demonstrate that, despite the existence of prevention programs, easily available testing facilities, and a supposedly broad public awareness of the infection and its possible routes of transmission, MSM still account for the majority of local onward transmissions," Chalmet's team wrote.
The study's findings very likely hold true for the United Kingdom. In its last full report for 2009, the Health Protection Agency said the rate of HIV infection among MSM remained high, though there had been a slight overall drop. HPA said one in five cases had become infected within the previous six months, suggesting recent risky behavior.
A 2008 report specifically on HIV among MSM said the UK has around 32,000 gay men living with the virus. Just under half of all new diagnoses were among MSM, and 82 percent of infections were probably acquired within Britain.
The open-access report, "Epidemiological Study of Phylogenetic Transmission Clusters in a Local HIV-1 Epidemic Reveals Distinct Differences Between Subtype B and Non-B Infections," was published in BMC Infectious Diseases (doi: 10.1186/1471-2334-10-262).
The Guardian (London)
09.07.2010; Sarah Boseley
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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