More Frequent HIV Testing May Protect Men Who Have Sex With Men

Published: June 2, 2011

More than half – 59% – of new cases of HIV in the United States in 2009 occurred in men who have sex with men, based on data from 7,271 of them, as published on June 2 in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

"Given the high prevalence of new HIV infection among MSM [men who have sex with men] who had been tested during the past year, sexually active MSM might benefit from more frequent HIV testing," such as every 3-6 months, the researchers wrote (MMWR 2011;60:694-9).

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed data from MSM in 21 cities that were collected as part of the National HIV Behavioral Surveillance System (NHBS). The MSM were aged 18 years and older (mean, 34 years); 44% were white, 25% were Hispanic, and 23% were black.

Overall, 680 (9%) of the MSM were infected with HIV. Although 29% of these had been tested during the past 6 months, 16% had never been tested. A total of 61% had tested negative for HIV during the past year. Of the 61%, 7% were positive for HIV when they were tested by the NHBS (15% of blacks, 7% of Hispanics, and 3% of whites).

In general, men with higher incomes and education were more likely to be tested. Testing rates were similar among different ethnicities. However, "the high proportion of HIV-infected persons among minority MSM, particularly black MSM, who had not previously received a diagnosis of HIV infection and were tested during the past year underscores that testing among these populations should be a priority for HIV testing programs," the researchers wrote.

The findings were limited by several factors, including the possible underreporting of HIV-positive status and high-risk behaviors, and the recruitment of study participants from bars and clubs in cities with a high prevalence of AIDS, the researchers noted.

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