Gay/Bisexual Men Uninformed About HIV Testing, Treatment

Diedtra Henderson

October 06, 2014

Less than 46% of gay and bisexual men are aware that people with HIV should begin antiretroviral treatment as soon as they are diagnosed, according to a survey by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. In addition, just 25% of the respondents knew the therapy worked as a preventive measure, thwarting the spread of HIV infection to sexual partners.

The findings, published online September 25 by the Kaiser Family Foundation, drew from a nationally representative survey of 431 men who identified as gay or bisexual and triggered a swift response from AIDS activists.

"HIV/AIDS might not be a death sentence anymore, but there are still 50,000 new infections in the United States every year — and gay and bisexual men are still among those most at risk," Kelsey Louie, chief executive officer of Gay Men's Health Crisis, the nation's leading provider of HIV/AIDS care, prevention services, and advocacy, said in a statement.

The survey, conducted from July 17 to August 3, 2014, and led by Liz Hamel, director of the foundation's Public Opinion and Survey Research team, found that gay and bisexual men identify HIV/AIDS as their number-one health issue. Although 47% of men aged 35 years or older said someone close to them had died from HIV/AIDS, that figure dropped to 8% of men aged 18 to 34 years, according to Hamel and colleagues.

The survey findings appear to uncover a disconnect between public health information and men who identify as gay or bisexual. Gay men are the only group in the country whose HIV infection rates are rising, and an estimated 12 to 13% of gay and bisexual men in the United States are HIV positive, according to recent data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Yet only 49% of gay and bisexual men said HIV/AIDs was a "very" or "somewhat" significant issue for them; 51% said it was "not too significant" or "not a significant issue" for them personally. A majority of the respondents, 56%, said they are not personally concerned about becoming infected, and 30% said they had never been tested for HIV. Moreover, 56% of respondents said their clinicians never recommended HIV testing, the researchers note.

Some 46% of gay and bisexual men said they used condoms most or all of the time, with men of color more likely than white men to report consistent condom use.

"HIV/AIDS in the Lives of Gay and Bisexual Men in the United States." Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Published online September 25, 2014. Full text


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