Health Officials Urge Increased HIV Testing, Counseling of Male Bathhouse Patrons
Los Angeles County health officials are urging increased HIV testing and counseling in gay bathhouses, after a study released this week at the 2003 National HIV Prevention Conference in Atlanta showed that male bathhouse patrons were twice as likely as men tested in public health clinics or community-based agencies to be HIV-positive, the Los Angeles Times reports. Officials suggested that HIV prevention education and testing may discourage risky behavior in the bathhouses. The study, conducted by researchers from the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, found that of the 916 men tested at two Los Angeles bathhouses between May 2001 and December 2002, 11% of them tested HIV-positive, compared with 5.5% of the men who were tested at public clinics and community-based agencies (Rodriguez, Los Angeles Times, 8/1). In addition, only 40% of the men who tested positive for HIV returned to learn their results, while 60% of the men testing positive failed to return to learn their HIV status (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/30). The fact that the test results took a week to be available might have played a role in why the men did not return, according to Trista Bingham, director of the study and an epidemiologist with the health department. However, that could change with the use of OraSure's rapid HIV test OraQuick, Bingham added (Los Angeles Times, 8/1). The test offers results that are 99.6% accurate within 20 minutes (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/24). Lee Klosinski, director of programs for AIDS Project Los Angeles, said that the 40% follow-up finding is "a sobering figure, given the potential positive impact that knowing their HIV status can have for an individual. As helpful as it is to know, if you're HIV-positive it's still a scary thing to actually find out" (Los Angeles Times, 8/1).
Webcasts of selected sessions of the conference are available online through kaisernetwork.org's HealthCast.