The number of gay men having unprotected anal sex is increasing dramatically, according to researchers at the University of California, San Francisco. A study of more than 500 young gay men in San Francisco revealed that the prevalence of unprotected anal sex rose by a third to a half in just four years. Furthermore, about half of the men having unprotected anal sex had partners of unknown or different HIV status. The results are published in the current issue of the journal AIDS.
"Occasional high-risk sex has now become pervasive among gay men in San Francisco," said Maria Ekstrand, PhD, research psychologist, UCSF Center for AIDS Prevention Studies at San Francisco General Hospital Medical Center and lead author of the study. "It is apparent that many gay men find it difficult to maintain safe sex practices over the long haul. Prevention efforts must address this problem."
The researchers followed 510 gay men, aged 18 to 29, who were identified for the San Francisco Young Men's Health Study (SFYMHS) in 1992. The participants were tested for HIV and filled out a self-administered questionnaire on numerous topics related to HIV and sexual behaviors during each study year between 1993 and 1997.
During the first study year, 37 percent of the participants reported having unprotected anal intercourse. By the fourth study year, this number had increased to one half. Sixty-eight percent reported having unprotected anal sex during at least one of the four years studied.
Men who didn't know the HIV status of their partners or had a dissimilar status
were considered to be at high risk of transmission. This group made up nearly
one fourth of the total sample during the last year of the study. Compared with
men who had the same HIV status as their partners or who practiced safe sex, the
men in the high-risk group were significantly more likely to be HIV positive,
have greater numbers of sexual partners, and have more frequent sex, said
Contact: Rebecca Sladek Nowlis
University of California - San Francisco