As Condom Use Declines In Gay Men, HIV Rates Climb
February 18, 2013

As Condom Use Declines In Gay Men, HIV Rates Climb

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

Researchers are finding that less gay men are using condoms, leading to a rise in HIV infections for the group.

A study commissioned by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) found a 26 percent rise in HIV infections from 1990 to 2010 in the proportion of men who have sex with men who did not use condoms.

And the latest figures show cases among men who have sex with men are reaching an all-time high.

Overall, one in 20 gay men are infected with HIV, according to the study, which was reported PLoS ONE.

According to BBC News, another HPA study found that nearly half of the 6,280 people diagnosed with HIV were gay men.

The HPA's report found that the incidence of HIV could be 32 percent lower if all anti-retroviral treatment were prescribed from the moment of diagnosis, rather than when health declined.

If all gay men had stopped using condoms from 2000, rates of HIV infections would be 400 percent higher than they are now, according to HPA.

The study also found that the incidence of HIV could have dropped by a quarter if more HIV testing had been done. These results, according to the researchers, show that even a modest increase in unprotected sex was enough to erode the benefits of other interventions.

"By better understanding the driving forces behind the trends we've seen in the past, it will allow us to make informed choices to reduce new HIV infections in the future," study leader Professor Andrew Phillips, from University College London (UCL), said in a statement.

Co-author Dr Valerie Delpech, who is head of HIV surveillance at the HPA, said that they are encouraging gay men to have an HIV and STI screen annually, and every three months if they are having sex with new or casual partners without condoms.

The health officials also said that a quarter of people who have an HIV infection are not even aware that they have been infected.

A new study published in the journal Immunity in January 2013 could be leading to the development of new antivirals. This team found that an oxidized derivative of cholesterol known as 25-hydroxycholesterol (25HC) infuses cell walls, preventing viruses from implanting genetic material into the cell.

During testing, scientists impacted human tissue infected with HIV in mice. They found a significant reduction in viral load within seven days.

“Antiviral genes have been hard to apply for therapeutic purposes because it is difficult to express genes in cells. CH25H, however, produces a natural, soluble oxysterol that can be synthesized and administered.” said lead author Su-Yang Liu, a medical student at UCLA.