Studies show an encouraging trend of rising HIV testing and earlier HIV diagnosis gay men popularly referred to as men who have sex with men (MSM). A report in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report issue showed an upward trend in HIV testing within this group.
Men who fall under this category have been over time, the most affected cohort in the US when it comes to HIV. Cases reported in 2014 had 81% of HIV-infected adult and adolescent males. 83% of these were linked to male-to-male sexual activity. The CDC insists on regular HIV testing for sexually active MSM to enable early HIV diagnosis and prevention.
A team of researchers led by Laurie Linley, from the CDC’s National Center for HIV, Atlanta, surveyed data from 2007 to 2013 collected from 18 American states, two American cities, and the District of Columbia. The data was collected during the HIV incidence surveillance.
More Gay Men Going for HIV Testing
The researchers used the data to assess HIV testing patterns among MSM. The analysis involved men aged above 13 years who had HIV as a result of engaging in male-to-male sexual intercourse. During the analysis, the researchers found that HIV testing history among MSM had increased from 51% in 2007 to 69% in 2013. Overall, the percentage of those who had a previous negative HIV test result increased from 70% in 2007 to 74% in 2013.
Even though the analysis only looked at previous HIV testing patterns among MSM with diagnosed HIV infections, this upward trend matches earlier findings of a study involving MSM without a diagnosis who tested in the previous 12 months. The findings indicated an increase in HIV testing from 63% in 2008 to 67% in 2011.
Need for more Testing Campaigns
The researchers feel that even though there is evidence of increased HIV testing among MSM, it’s still necessary to promote annual HIV testing, especially among high-risk subgroups in order to increase early HIV detection. This will then enable provision of quick linkage to care to improve health among those infected and reduce their risk for transmission.
Several initiatives and strategies aimed to expand HIV testing among MSM have been put in place over the last decade. The initiatives aim at increasing early diagnosis and treatment and to reduce cases of transmission.
The National HIV/AIDS Strategy that was released in 2010, put in place a framework that would intensify HIV prevention efforts in high-risk communities such as MSM, black or Hispanic/Latino people and people who use drugs through injections. The CDC has been proactive in funding state and local health departments as well as community-based organizations in the United States in order to expand HIV testing and prevention activities.
To encourage MSM to test more, the CDC has started programs such as the MSM Testing Initiative, Expanded Testing Initiative, and Act Against AIDS campaign. These programs are intended to increase HIV testing among men who identify as MSM of all races and ethnicities and people who inject drugs.
If the results of these studies are anything to go by, then the CDC testing awareness campaigns seem to be bearing good fruit.
Linley L, An Q, Song R, et al. HIV Testing Experience Before HIV Diagnosis Among Men Who Have Sex with Men — 21 Jurisdictions, United States, 2007–2013. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:999–1003. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6537a3
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