Data released last week found that 62 percent of American men who self-reported being HIV-positive said they had unprotected anal sex with a male partner in the last 12 months.
The Centers for Disease Control report, “HIV Testing and Risk Behaviors Among Gay, Bisexual and Other Men who have Sex with Men,” noted that the population of men having sex with men (MSM) is a small proportion of the US population; however, this group represents the majority of people diagnosed with HIV.
In 2011, men who had sex with men accounted for at least half of persons diagnosed with HIV in all but two states. Anal sex is cited by the CDC as having the highest-risk practice for HIV infection.
“High HIV prevalence, lack of awareness of HIV-positive status, and unprotected anal sex” between gay, bisexual and other men are cited by the CDC as contributing to continued new infections among this population.
However, only 67 percent of sexually active MSM reported getting an HIV test in the past year.
The researchers found that some men attempt to decrease their HIV risk by only engaging in unprotected sex with those “perceived” as having HIV or not. However, this practice is risky because some may not disclose or may not know they are infected with the virus.
Unprotected anal sex among MSM increased from 2005 to 2011, and in 2011 one-third of HIV-positive MSM who did not know if they were infected reported unprotected sex with a partner who said they were HIV-negative or did not know either.
The researchers wrote that more testing and openness about protected sex can dramatically curb the spread of infections.
“Sexually active MSM should be tested at least annually for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Sexually active MSM can take steps to make sex safer such as choosing less risky behaviors, using condoms consistently and correctly if they have vaginal or anal sex, reducing the number of sex partners, and if HIV-positive, letting potential sex partners know their status.”