A US Center for Disease Control (CDC) study of data from across 20 US cities has shown a 20% jump in the number of gay men having unsafe sex – but also shows that gay men who know their HIV status are at significantly lower sexual risk of catching or passing the virus.
The report also found that the percentage of gay and bisexual men reporting unprotected anal sex at least once during the past 12 months grew to 57 percent in 2011 from 48 percent in 2005.
According to the data, 33% of HIV positive men who have sex with men were unaware they were infected with the virus in 2011 due to not getting tested and mistakenly believed they were HIV negative.
33% of gay and bisexual men overall had not been tested for HIV in the last 12 months.
Many people are unaware that a person who has caught HIV can go for as long as seven years without showing serious signs of being infected and so assume that if they seem healthy they can’t have caught the virus.
However gay and bisexual men who had been tested in the last 12 months were found to engage in much safer behavior, with HIV positive men who have sex with men 60% less likely to have unprotected sex with someone who was HIV negative or of unknown status.
The more recent someone had been tested, the less likely they were found to be infected without knowing it.
CDC Director Dr Tom Frieden said the data showed that regular testing remained among the most important tools in stopping the spread of the virus.
‘While we remain concerned about potentially increasing levels of sexual risk, it is encouraging to see that risk is substantially lower in those who know they have HIV,’
‘HIV testing remains one of our most powerful tools to reverse the epidemic. Everyone should know their HIV status.’