Better HIV Treatment Leads to Riskier Behavior in Gay Men
The advancements in HIV treatment have made it easier to stall the progression of the virus. However, a new study suggests that the news of these treatments is having an unintended consequence. More gay men are engaging in risky behavior because they believe that antiretroviral medicines will keep them safe. However, the continuation this kind of behavior only increases their risk despite taking proper prevention methods.
The Risk to Gay Men
Gay Men are already more likely to contract HIV than others. In 2015, gay and bisexual men accounted for 67 percent of all new diagnoses. Anal sex is the highest risk factor for HIV transmission. Receptive anal sex puts more men at risk than insertive anal sex. This is because of the rectums thin lining, which allows HIV to enter the body more easily. The transmission of HIV can happen from semen or pre-seminal fluid.
The Danger of Relying Solely on Medicinal HIV Treatment
Study leader Seth Kalichman of the University of Connecticut and his team analyzed a survey spanning 19 years. Participants at a gay pride event noted their sexual habits. Here is what they found:
- An increase in condomless sex among men.
- A rise in the number of sexual partners that men engaged with.
- Condomless receptive anal sex has doubled in HIV-negative men.
- Condomless insertive anal sex has tripled in HIV-negative men.
We are seeing a considerable increase in unsafe sex because gay men perceive antiretroviral drugs to be enough. However, after looking at the survey data, they found there wasn’t much of a reduction of new HIV infections in major cities. In fact, certain countries with HIV testing programs and antiretroviral drugs have seen infection grow among gay men. The risk remains when unsafe behavior increases.
Kalichman concludes that “The current study adds to the mounting evidence that substantial changes have occurred in community-held beliefs that condomless anal sex is safer in the era of HIV treatment as prevention.”