Resurgence in Unsafe Sex Practices Tied to Belief that HIV Tx Reduces Risk

Increased beliefs that treatments prevent HIV and increased condomless anal sex
Increased beliefs that treatments prevent HIV and increased condomless anal sex

(HealthDay News) — Men who have sex with men are much less likely to use condoms now than they were two decades ago, according to research published online Feb. 6 in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

The new study, from a team led by Seth Kalichman, Ph.D., of the University of Connecticut in Storrs, analyzed anonymous surveys given to male attendees at an Atlanta gay pride festival in 1997, 2005, 2006, and 2015. The survey included 1,831 men; 81 to 97 percent were white except in 2006, when researchers sought more blacks and only 39 percent were white.

Among men who said they were HIV-negative or didn't know their status, 43 percent in 1997 said they'd had anal sex without a condom within the last six months. That number grew to 61 percent in 2015. In 2015, a third of the men surveyed said they had unprotected sex with two or more men; that number was 9 percent in 1997. Among HIV-positive men -- 14 to 17 percent of those surveyed -- the number who reported recently having anal sex without a condom grew from 25 percent in 1997 to 67 percent in 2015. Those who said they'd done this with two or more partners rose from 9 percent in 1997 to 52 percent in 2015.

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"Results illustrate the emergence of an era where antiretroviral therapy is the focus of HIV prevention and community-held beliefs and behaviors regarding definitions of risk create a new and potentially problematic environment for HIV transmission," the authors write.

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