Thursday, May 14, 2009

HIV prophylaxis programs "not working" - Australian study

via, by Michael Woodhead

Programs that offer gay men access to anti-HIV drugs for postexposure prophylaxis after high risk sexual behaviour are not working, an Australian study has found.

While homosexual men tended to use prophylaxis appropriately, they do not modify their high risk behaviour in the longer term and do not use prophylaxis for all episodes of unprotected intercourse, a prospective five year study in Sydney has shown.

Published in the journal AIDS (online 4 May), the findings from the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research show that almost all the 1427 participants had heard of non-occupational post-exposure prophylaxis (NPEP). Usage of prophylaxis increased over the duration of the study, and was mostly used after unprotected intercourse. In 80% of participants it was used only once.

However, the use of prophylaxis did not result in any change in risk behaviour, a finding the researchers said was ‘disappointing’ given that behavioural counseling was always provided when prophylaxis was dispensed.

The study also found that over the five year study period prophylaxis was only used by men on 7% of high risk periods such as unprotected intercourse, and that users had three-fold higher rate of seroconversion to HIV.

“This study paints a picture of increasing and mainly appropriate use of [prophylaxis] among homosexual men in Sydney,” the authors write.

But given the lack of impact of prophylaxis on either HIV risk behaviour or HIV incidence, there is a need to redesign the programs and improve the interventions to reduce personal HIV risk, they say.

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