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Study: Most HIV-positive young gay men are unaware of infection

Study: Most HIV-positive young gay men are unaware of infection

Most young urban gay men who are infected with HIV are unaware they are HIV-positive, according to a study of 5,600 men ages 15-29 conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Reuters Health reports. More than three quarters of the study subjects who were shown to be HIV-positive after undergoing HIV antibody testing said they had been unaware they were infected, the researchers say. Most also had thought they had been at low risk for infection and as such had engaged in unprotected sex in the previous six months, possibly exposing others to the virus. The researchers say the main reason most of the study subjects were unaware they were infected is because they did not undergo regular HIV antibody screenings. Although most study subjects had been tested at least once for HIV infection, the majority of those testing positive during the study had not been screened in the previous year. The CDC recommends sexually active gay men be tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases at least annually--and preferably every six months. The widespread belief that the men were at low risk for HIV infection, coupled with limited access to health care services and a fear of testing, led to the low level of regular HIV screening among the study participants, according to the researchers. Expanded HIV antibody testing at gay venues, like clubs and bars, and more widespread use of rapid HIV tests that provide results in about 20 minutes could help boost the level of testing among sexually active gay and bisexual men, the researchers suggest. Overall, about 10% of the study subjects were shown to be HIV-positive; 77% of those testing positive for HIV antibodies said they had not known of their infection. The full study appears in the April 15 edition of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.

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