Suck & Go – anonymous HIV saliva test prevalence study among gay men in Queensland, Australia

Published: August 1, 2008

´Suck & Go´ – anonymous HIV saliva test prevalence study among gay men in Queensland, Australia

Background: HIV infection among gay men has increased in Queensland. Use of inaccurate knowledge of HIV status in negotiating sex is thought to be contributing to the increase. The study sought to:
(1) determine the prevalence of HIV amongst gay men attending gay social and sex venues,
(2) determine the level of undiagnosed HIV infection within a community setting, and
(3) identify sexual risk behaviour associated with inaccurate knowledge of HIV status.

Methods: 464 gay men were recruited over a three week period in gay venues in Brisbane (427) and Toowoomba (37). Participants completed a behavioural questionnaire and submitted an oral fluid specimen. Surveys and specimens were linked using an anonymous numerical code. Oral fluid testing for HIV was undertaken using the Orasure collection system & assay and any reactive specimens were confirmed. Results were linked to reported testing patterns, HIV status and sexual behaviours.

Results: 41 oral fluid specimens were confirmed HIV positive from the 464 samples. 33 men reported as HIV positive in the survey, and all were confirmed. 8 men who identified as negative or unknown status had confirmed Orasure reactive results, resulting in 1.9% of the “non-positive” sample being unaware of their HIV status. Therefore 19.5% of HIV positive participants were not aware of their true status. All of these unidentified positives had tested for HIV in the previous 12 months.

Conclusions: The use of anonymous HIV saliva testing for research purposes was generally accepted by gay men. A significant minority of HIV positive men were unaware of their HIV status and may be using this inaccurate information to negotiate sex. Results of the study have been fed back to the gay community and suggestions have been made to improve studies of a similar nature in the future.

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