NEW YORK — Federal health officials are reporting a sharp increase in unprotected sex among gay U.S. men over the past decade, a development that makes it harder to fight the AIDS epidemic, the New York Times reports in a piece widely syndicated by other media outlets such as the Boston Globe.
The same trend recently has been documented among gay men in Canada, Britain, the Netherlands, France and Australia, heightening concerns among public health officials worldwide, the article said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of men who told federal health investigators that they had had unprotected anal sex in the last year rose nearly 20 percent from 2005 to 2011. In the 2011 survey, unprotected sex was more than twice as common among men who said they did not know whether they were infected with HIV, the Times reports.
Being tested even once for HIV is associated with men taking fewer risks, whether the test is positive or negative, health experts say. But the most recent survey found that a third of the men interviewed had not been tested in the past year.
The findings are worrying because “unprotected anal intercourse is in a league of its own as far as risk is concerned,” Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the CDC, said on Nov. 27 according to the New York Times as the figures were released.
The data, published in the agency’s “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report,” do not explain why unprotected sex has risen so rapidly, but a leading hypothesis, Frieden said, is that more men are “serosorting” — that is, those who are uninfected (“HIV seronegative” on lab reports) try to have sex only with other men who are uninfected.