24 June 2015

Anti-Gay European Countries Have Less HIV-AIDS

HIV Cure
Europe's most anti-gay countries may be paving the way for a decrease in HIV cases among gay and bisexual men, according to new research published in the journal AIDS.

An international team of researchers from Europe and the US looked at HIV-related service use, need and behaviors among 175,000 gay or bisexual men living in 38 European countries with differing levels of national anti-gay measures.

They found that men in these conservative countries had fewer sexual partners and were less likely to be diagnosed with HIV. They also found those men knew less about HIV and were less likely to use condoms owing to the fact that they have less sexual encounters.

Technological advancements such as mobile sex-seeking apps mean men in the most gay-friendly countries have increasing opportunities for sexual contact. These innovations are quickly overcoming the relative lack of brick-and-mortar sex venues such as bars and saunas. This is not the case in anti-gay areas. Researchers thus warned the effects of gay measures could therefore have a very concerning impact on the spread of HIV.

Co-author Dr. Ford Hickson from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: "Our findings are surprising as it may appear it's effectively safer for men to stay in the closet in the most homophobic countries because their HIV-risk is lower there."

The research was conducted by the Yale School of Public Health, Columbia University, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, the Norwegian Knowledge Centre for Health Services, and the German Robert Koch Institute.

Researchers measured national anti-gay sentiments across Europe using a combination of the laws of a country and the results of social attitudes surveys. They then analyzed data from 175,000 gay or bisexual men in 38 European countries who completed the European MSM Survey (EMIS) in 2010 to compare the level of HIV-related service use, need and behaviors among groups of men living in more homophobic and less homophobic countries.

The researchers say their findings suggest new approaches need to be considered to reduce homofacism without increasing the HIV risk.