Israeli study may point to the future of the HIV epidemic in men who have sex with men

Published: May 27, 2011

Over the past decade across high-income countries such as Canada and Australia and regions such as Western Europe an unexpected and disturbing trend has emerged—an increase in syphilis and HIV infections among men who have sex with men (MSM). Now researchers in Israel have found similar trends in HIV in that country. Furthermore, researchers there have found another troubling trend: A significant proportion (about 30%) of MSM newly infected with HIV have strains of this virus that are resistant to some anti-HIV therapies.

The Israeli report, published in the June 1, 2011 issue of the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases has incited an editorial to accompany it that calls out for concerted action to help communities of MSM become more resilient so that they can re-embrace safer-sex behaviours and help reduce the spread of HIV. The editorial cautions against the incorrect assumption made by some MSM that use of potent anti-HIV therapy, commonly called HAART or ART, will render them or their partners sexually non-infectious.

Study details
Researchers in Israel at several infectious disease clinics, public health departments and research centres collaborated on a large study to assess changes in behaviour that might help to explain the accelerating spread of HIV among MSM in recent years.

The study was made easier to conduct in part because in 1986 Israeli authorities established a centralized national HIV registry and National HIV Reference Laboratory (NHRL). In Israel, all doctors and laboratories are required to report details of newly diagnosed cases of HIV to the registry. The NHRL confirms HIV infection in the blood samples it receives. It also conducts molecular analysis for strains of HIV that may be resistant to treatment and to monitor the evolution of the virus.

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