Many Young, HIV-Positive MSM Unaware of HIV Status, Regular Testing Needed, Study Says
Many young, HIV-positive men who have sex with men are unaware of their HIV status, according to a study published in the April 15 issue of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, Reuters Health reports. CDC epidemiologist Duncan MacKellar and colleagues studied more than 5,600 men ages 15 to 29 recruited from bars, parks, cafes, stores and other venues in six U.S. cities between 1994 and 2000. The researchers surveyed each of the men about their sexual behavior, perceived HIV risk and HIV testing history and collected blood samples for HIV testing (Norton, Reuters Health, 4/26). Approximately 10% of the men tested positive for HIV, and 77% were unaware of their status, according to the study. Of the 439 men who were unaware of their HIV-positive status, 59% had indicated that they thought they were at low risk for contracting HIV and 51% reported having unprotected anal sex with another man during the previous six months (AFP/Yahoo! News, 4/26). More than half of the men with unrecognized HIV had not been tested in the previous year (MacKellar et al., Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, 4/15).
The researchers said that the findings are "probably not reflective" of the larger MSM population in the United States because of the study's recruiting method, Reuters Health reports. However, MacKellar said the study "underscores the urgency" of increased HIV testing among MSM. He said limited access to health care services and a fear of testing positive might be reasons for the lack of regular testing observed in the study. The researchers suggested expanding HIV testing services at clubs and bars in order to reach more men who are unaware of their HIV-positive status. MacKellar also said it is important for physicians to recommend routine HIV testing for patients who have an increased risk of contracting the virus (Reuters Health, 4/26).