‘Steep rise’ in HIV infection feared among gay Israeli men, says survey

Israel: A survey conducted by the Israel AIDS Task Force shows the likelihood of a steep rise in HIV infection rates among gay men in the country, reports GayAsiaNews.com.

Of the 989 men who participated in the online poll of gay men, 48 percent reported having unprotected sex at least once this year.

The survey, first reported by haaretz.com, also showed that 34 percent admitted to a small number of such encounters, 6 percent said they used condoms half the time and 8 percent said they use a condom less than half the time.

The findings were published ahead of a conference in Tel Aviv May 29 organized by the task force under the name, “The Community Takes Responsibility.”

The poll taken among users of the Atraf dating site and other Web sites for men who have sex with men was supervised by the director of the HIV/AIDS Center at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, Dr. Itzchak Levy.

Levy estimates that one out of every 10 gay men in Tel Aviv is infected with HIV, and that every week at least three gay men are infected with the virus. “The situation that we want to prevent, in which many gay men will be HIV-positive, is not a matter for future predictions, it’s already here.”

This is largely because younger men having sex with men were less likely to use a condom, the survey said.

The use of alcohol and other mood-altering drugs raised the likelihood of having unprotected sex by 55 percent, according to the study. Men are less likely to use condoms during sexual encounters in gay saunas, it added.

Having multiple partners also increases the chances of unprotected sex. Men who reported having more than five sexual partners a year reported having sex without a condom at double the frequency of respondents with fewer partners, the study showed.

However, men who were infected with HIV were twice as likely as other respondents to use condoms.

The number of new HIV infections in Israel has been rising for several years. About 30 percent of the new carriers are men who have sex with men, compared to just 10 percent in 2002.

Activists with the AIDS Task Force worry that within a few years the percentage of HIV carriers among gay men in Israel would increase.

“We have to stop burying our heads in the sand and start talking about the subject openly,” Adir Yanko, coordinator of the task force’s prevention and information group told haaretz.com.

“The figures demonstrate unequivocally that not every HIV carrier is gay, but there is a worrisome trend in which an increasing number of gays are being infected,” he added.

by Associate Editor
Source – San Diego LGBT Weekly