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Long term decline in consistent condom use among Australian gay men
Roger Pebody, 2016-11-15 03:00:00

Data from the last ten years of the Australian Gay Community Periodic Surveys shows a steady decline in consistent condom use, with more gay men attempting to minimise their risk by serosorting or by having an undetectable viral load. While HIV-positive men appear to be increasingly confident in their low risk of HIV transmission, it is not clear that HIV-negative men have fully embraced the impact of antiretrovirals on HIV prevention.

“Our report highlights the urgent need for HIV prevention messages to reflect the expanding approaches gay men find most suitable,” commented Carla Treloar of the University of New South Wales. “These messages should include biomedical and behavioural tools and address diverse groups of gay men.”

Despite the long-term shifts in sexual behaviour, annual incidence (new infections) in gay men is stable at 0.89%, as are new HIV diagnoses (699 in 2015, compared to 631 ten years previously). Moreover, despite an increasing population of people living with HIV in Australia, there are fewer diagnoses being made proportionally over time. In 2015, for every 100 people living with diagnosed HIV, there were 4.5 new HIV diagnoses, which is 32% lower than the 6.6 in 2006.

The new report, released this week, also shows that regular HIV testing and comprehensive STI screening are both up, while recreational drug use is down.

The report reviews trends between 2006 and 2015. Data come from the Gay Community Periodic Surveys, which are conducted in urban areas with large gay populations. The surveys recruit men online, in sexual health clinics, and at gay venues and events. Different men take part in these cross-sectional surveys each year.