Young Gay Men Contracting HIV From ‘Steady Partners’
Gay men under the age of 30 may be "more likely" to contract HIV from a "steady" partner than from casual sex, according to a Dutch study published this month in the journal AIDS, Reuters Health reports. Researchers led by Udi Davidovich of the Department of Public Health and Environment in Amsterdam examined data collected from more than 1,800 gay men between 1984 and 2000 and found that between 1984 and 1987, 15% of gay men aged 30 and under who contracted HIV were infected by a steady partner. Between 1994 and 2000, that figure "jumped" to 67%, a "sharp contrast" to the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Reuters Health reports. For gay men over the age of 30, HIV infections from a steady partner accounted for only 17% of all infections, while casual sex accounted for 83%. Davidovich's team distributed questionnaires to participants every six months for the duration of the study and interviewed participants once they tested HIV-positive to determine the "likely source" of their infections. The researchers attributed the increase in infections among young men with steady partners to "negotiated safety," whereby partners "may forgo condoms" when they believe they both have the same HIV status and they have "reach[ed] agreements regarding sexual practice outside the relationship." Before this study it was "unclear" whether such relationships "pose[d] a significant HIV risk," the study noted. "The dominant role that steady partners have acquired as a source of HIV infection among young gay men could mean that this route of infection has not been sufficiently addressed in past prevention efforts. It should therefore receive adequate attention if we wish to further reduce the overall spread of HIV in the population of gay men," Davidovich's team concluded (Reuters Health, 7/24).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.