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Australia: Younger Gay Men in Worrying HIV Trend

December 16, 2010

In Victoria, younger men who have sex with men may be at an increasing risk of HIV infection, a new study suggests. The finding is based on age-trend comparisons of HIV diagnoses among MSM, using 2000-09 passive and sentinel HIV surveillance data in Victoria and enhanced syphilis and gonorrhea surveillance.

After sustained increases between 2000 and 2007, the median age at HIV diagnosis among MSM in Victoria declined significantly, from 38.8 years in 2007 to 35.3 years in 2008 (P=0.023). Last year, the median age was 35.9 years. Median age at syphilis reports declined, from 40.6 years in 2007 to 36 years, as did the median age at gonorrhea reports in the same period, from 32.3 years to 29.3 years.

Compared with older MSM, MSM below age 35 were less likely to have ever been screened for HIV; more likely to report not knowing the HIV status of regular partners; and more likely to report inconsistent condom use with casual and regular partners.

"Recent focus group data have shown that younger MSM are less likely to discuss HIV and other [STDs] with peers," said study co-author Carol El-Hayek, epidemiologist with the Center for Population Health at Melbourne's Burnet Institute.

"It has also been suggested that younger gay men may be more susceptible to engaging in risky sexual behavior because they are less aware or less concerned about the implications of HIV" in the era of antiretroviral therapy, El-Hayek said.

Between 2000 and 2009, Victoria recorded 1,635 HIV diagnoses among MSM. Between 2007 and 2009, diagnoses among MSM ages 25-29 grew 62 percent.

"Any response developed would need to consider more diverse health strategies to ensure that prevention messages reached young [MSM]," El-Hayek said.

The study, "The Changing Age Distribution of Men Who Have Sex with Men Diagnosed with HIV in Victoria," was published in the Medical Journal of Australia (2010;193(11/12):655-658).

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Excerpted from:
Australian Associated Press
12.12.2010; Danny Rose

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