More Than 10% of HIV-Positive Individuals Do Not Disclose Status Before Engaging in Risky Sexual Behavior, Study Says
Approximately 13% of HIV-positive individuals do not disclose their status to sexual partners before engaging in risky behavior that could transmit the virus, according to a study published in the June issue of the American Journal of Public Health, the Los Angeles Times reports (Carey, Los Angeles Times, 6/2). Daniel Ciccarone and colleagues at the University of California-San Francisco interviewed about 1,400 HIV-positive individuals -- 606 men who have sex with men, 287 heterosexual men and 504 heterosexual women -- about their sexual behavior and disclosure of HIV status, according to a UCSF release (UCSF release, 5/28). About half of the sexually active individuals reported having sex with a partner whose HIV status was either unknown or negative, and 13% of those individuals said that they had had unprotected sex with a partner whose status was unknown or negative, according to Reuters Health reports. The study also found that most unprotected sex involved "mutual non-disclosure," in which neither partner revealed his or her HIV status. Men who have sex with men were more likely than heterosexual men and women to have sex -- whether protected or unprotected -- without revealing their HIV status, according to Reuters Health. According to the study, men who have sex with men were less likely to disclose HIV status before sex in a casual relationship than in a monogamous relationship. Heterosexual men and women were just as likely to reveal their HIV status in a casual relationship as in a monogamous relationship (Mozes, Reuters Health, 5/28).
'Do Ask, Do Tell'
The study results suggest that current HIV prevention strategies to promote openness about the disease are not helping everyone change their behaviors. However, "the message that people ought to act responsibly has gotten out well; only a minority is having risky sex without disclosing," Ciccarone, the study's lead author, said (Los Angeles Times, 6/2). Ciccarone said that the best way to encourage disclosure is to promote a community norm of "do ask, do tell," adding, "While the vast majority of HIV-positive individuals either abstain, disclose or attempt to minimize risk, the worrisome number of HIV-positive people, both gay and straight, who 'don't tell' and who 'aren't asked' while engaging in risky behavior, does call for new approaches" (UCSF release, 5/28). Antony Stately, director of client services at AIDS Project Los Angeles, said that public health officials need to focus on reducing the social stigma attached to HIV/AIDS and target their efforts on people who are engaging in risky behavior (Los Angeles Times, 6/2).