Worrying rise in high risk sexual behaviour among homosexual men

June 01, 2000

Increase in high risk sexual behaviour among homosexual men, London 1996-8: cross sectional, questionnaire study

HIV risk behaviour in gay men: on the rise? [Editorial]

The first ever report of an increase in unsafe sex among gay men in England appears in this week's BMJ, representing a worrying shift in behaviour twenty years after the start of the HIV epidemic.

Julie Dodds and colleagues, from the Department of Sexually Transmitted Diseases at the Royal Free and University College Medical School, London, suggest that the likelihood of engaging in high risk sexual behaviour may be increasing as new treatments reduce concern about infection.

Over a period of three years, more than 6,500 homosexual men - aged from 15 to 78 years - responded to a questionnaire about their sexual behaviour. The survey shows a significant increase in the reporting of unprotected anal intercourse, particularly among men under the age of 25. Furthermore, the chance of having unprotected intercourse with partners whose HIV status was unknown also increased over the three-year period. These results, say the authors, highlight the potential for the continuing spread of HIV infection and conclude that more effective health promotion initiatives should be implemented.

In an accompanying editorial, Andrew Grulich from the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology, Sydney, reports similar trends from the United States and Australia and suggests that this rise is associated with optimism over new treatments within gay communities. He argues that, while "the immediate and overwhelming threat of death from AIDS is no longer present ... current levels of unsafe sexual behaviour may lead to an increased incidence of HIV infection."
Contacts: (Paper) Julie P Dodds, Department of Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Royal Free and University College Medical School, London WC1E 6AU Email: JDodds@gum.ucl.ac.uk

(Editorial) Andrew Grulich, National Centre in HIV Epidemiology, 376 Victoria St, Darlinghurst, Sydney, NSW 2010 Australia Email: agrulich@nchecr.unsw.edu.


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