Tarika Pattanasin of the Thai Ministry of Public Health told the recently concluded 20th International AIDS Conference that an analysis of Bangkok MSM had shown that HIV incidence in young gay men and transgender women aged 18-21 was 8.8% a year, compared with 3.7% a year in those aged over 30, according to aidsmap.com.
The survey of 494 people found that HIV incidence is running at 9% a year in those who don’t use condoms consistently and 2% a year in those who say they do. There was a higher-than-average incidence in respondents who lived alone or with flatmates than their family, the report said.
The overall annual incidence rate was 7.5% a year and that a quarter of those studied had acquired HIV so far.
Health workers are looking for ways to prevent HIV in such a “relentlessly accumulating epidemic,” in Thailand, but agree that “no one single measure would probably contain HIV in such a situation,” the report said.
“It is a huge problem that young gay men today are coming out into a population where already a much higher proportion of their contemporaries has HIV than was the case 20 years ago,” said Luiz Loures of UNAIDS.
The Thai Red Cross that runs the largest HIV clinic in Bangkok is trying to get MSM to test as frequently as possible in the hope of catching early infections through its provocative ‘Suck. F***. Test. Repeat.’ campaign.
Health workers are also looking to campaign for PrEP (a new HIV prevention method in which people who do not have HIV take a daily pill to reduce the risk of being infected) said Dr Sarika.
Study findings presented at the AIDS conference showed criteria other than age and which included residence in Bangkok and being available for thrice-yearly HIV testing.
Forty per cent said they had used condoms 100% of the time for anal sex since their last clinic visit four months ago, 51% had condomless anal sex and been versatile; 8.5% said they had condomless sex but only as the insertive partner.
Twenty-four per cent said they had paid-for sex in the last four months and 28% casual sex in a sauna; 33% had sex with a casual partner at home.
Self-reported 100% condom use was 54% effective as a preventative strategy against HIV and 70% effective among those not taking the receptive role, the report said.
Having paid-for sex increased the risk of HIV 120%, having casual sex in a sauna 90%, and having casual sex 60% more risky for HIV.