A new study published today in The Lancet shows that despite increases in treatment and testing, HIV infection rates among gay and bi men in the United Kingdom have not declined. Testing rates quadrupled and treatment increased from 69 to 80 percent, but infection rates in England and Wales have flat-lined between 2,300 and 2,500 every year. A November report showed that more UK gay and bi men were diagnosed with HIV in 2011 than in any previous year on record.
The main problem the researchers report is that “a large proportion of new infections come from men who are recently infected themselves, so testing and treatment, while vital, are not the only answer.” If men are transmitting the virus before they even realize they have it, then education about responsible behavioral choices will be necessary to curb the rate beyond where it has flat-lined. Indeed, researchers cite two key challenges: men are having more unsafe sex because they don’t view HIV infection as deadly and internet dating sites make finding sexual partners increasingly easier.
Yusef Azad, director of policy at the National AIDS Trust, called for a “new approach to prevention for gay and bisexual men, which, in addition to continuing condom promotion,” will help address specific issues like drug use, mental health issues, and the gay scene.