Trusting young men at risk of contracting HIV

Published: October 24, 2011

Younger New Zealand men who have sex with men are more likely to have fewer sexual partners than their older counterparts, but are less likely to use condoms with their casual sex partners.

In past years it has been shown that the more mature men were the main group vulnerable to contracting HIV due to slippage in their commitment to condom use. The new research, just released, implies young men must be encouraged to take a more realistic view of issues around HIV infection.

The worrying information was revealed late last week by Auckland-based  student Nathan Lachowsky of the University of Otago’s AIDS Epidemiology Group. Lachowsky studied 9000 respondents to the Gay Auckland Periodic Sex Surveys and Gay men’s Online Sex Surveys conducted between between 2006-2011.

The young gay and bi men, aged under 30, were revealed to generally have less knowledge about HIV transmission, and are more likely to trust that a person who knows they have HIV will disclose the fact before having sex with them. Conversely, the younger men are more likely to use condoms with their boyfriends.

“Younger MSM in New Zealand are growing up, coming out, and living in a different environment than their predecessors,” Lachowsky says. “These young men differ in important ways from older MSM, but realizing the similarities and shared experiences are just as important.”

HIV Positive men’s advocacy and support organisation Body Positive has in the past pointed out that most men who have HIV take care not to infect others, but there is a significant pool of men who have contracted the debilitating virus who are unaware they have it.

“Research is an important way of building knowledge and evidence for future sexual health promotion and HIV prevention work,” says Lachowsky. “It also helps us build a case to advocate for greater funding for future research with our sexual minority community, which is greatly needed.”

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