The HIV epidemic in Europe, including the UK, is being fuelled by the risky behaviour of young gay men, according to research published today. Public messages and campaigns about the dangers of unsafe sex do not appear to be getting through to men who have sex with men, the researchers say – particularly the young ones.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA), which monitors HIV numbers in the UK, warns every year of the rising rate of infections among men who have sex with men (MSM). In its last full report, for 2009, it said that the rate of infection among gay men remained high, even though there had been a slight overall drop.

HIV infection can go unnoticed for years, but the HPA report said one in five of those diagnosed had become infected within the previous six months – suggesting recent risky behaviour was to blame.

The Belgian researchers, Kristen Chalmet and colleagues from the Aids Reference Laboratory at Ghent University, found one "striking and alarming" cluster of cases. Over the nine years of the study, 57 men acquired genetically very similar viruses, they say. Eight of them did so in the last year. "Members of this cluster are significantly younger than the rest of the population and have more chlamydia and syphilis infections," they write today, in the open access journal BioMed Central Infectious Diseases. Even excluding that group from the study, there was still a relationship between HIV infection and contracting syphilis, which suggested risky sexual behaviour.

"We clearly demonstrate that, despite the existence of prevention programmes, easily available testing facilities and a supposedly broad public awareness of the infection and its possible routes of transmission, MSM still account for the majority of local onward transmissions," they write.



  1. MP – was this one of your photo shop creations? Although very timely with the late Freddie’s birthday and all…it also highlights part of the problem. The bottom picture is much less relevant to young gays today who see HIV/AIDS as a treatable condition. In their (warped) view, it’s akin to developing diabetes (something I can say is a royal pain in the backside and much less complicated than an HIV medication regimen). This is not the situation globally where treatment is not often available.

  2. Meanwhile, on the gay TV network LOGO, the stars of the black gay show* “Noah’s Arc” are trumpeting the “many one-a-day meds which can keep HIV under control.”

    * Notable, that HIV has become so much a (comparatively) black gay disease here in the USA

    [wv “nobskin”. NO COMMENT!!! :-X]

  3. There are also the unfortunates for whom the drugs stop working after a time. For them, suddenly it’s 1985 again…..

  4. Perhaps you have better drugs in the US, but I’ve never met anyone on HIV meds who I would call well. The ones I know are always poorly with one thing or another, sometimes with serious stuff like pneumonia.

  5. I had a friend who was on HIV meds until this past summer when he died.

    HIV infection rates are growing here in NYC at an alarming rate for the same reasons as in the UK. The kids either have never visited a death bed, or they’ve lost their minds.

    People are still getting the disease, and they are still dying from it.

    The disease may have gone out of fashion, and it may have bored everyone, but it never really went away.

  6. I know a young man in Dallas from Argentina who worked as a safe-sex educator in the HIV prevention program in the HIV/AIDS department of a local social service agency. He taught folks how to not contract HIV. He was close to deaths doorstep when last I saw him. Even knowing how not to contract HIV he was involved personally with risky behavior and played Russian Roulette once too often!