Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New data on sero-sorting reveal different implications for HIV- and HIV+

A survey of German gay men has found that ‘serosorting’ – restricting unprotected sex to partners of the same HIV status – does not work as a safer-sex strategy.

The survey found that serosorting in HIV positive men increased the risk of having a bacterial sexually transmitted infection (STI) like syphilis or gonorrhoea more than fivefold. Serosorting was also associated with a five times greater risk of a recent HIV diagnosis than using condoms and/or monogamy as a strategy, and was even more risky than having no strategy.

Here, though, the researchers were unable to determine if serosorting was the cause of the HIV-positive diagnosis or the result of it (i.e. newly-positive men seeking out positive partners). Serosorting did not raise the risk of STIs significantly in HIV-negative men, but then exclusive serosorting – having unprotected sex, but only with men known or assumed to also be negative – was a strategy only adopted by a small proportion (3%) of HIV negatives.

The survey was conducted via gay magazines and the internet during 2007 by the Social Science Research Centre of Berlin and 8,170 questionnaires were analysed. The finings were presented as a poster at the Sixteenth
Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Montréal last week.

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