HIV Among Israeli Gay Men Up 55% Since 2005

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The number of new HIV infections among homosexual men is increasing, according to Health Ministry figures.

There has been a 55% increase in HIV infections among homosexual men since 2005, though the pace of infection has moderated somewhat in the past few years. In 2011, there were 150 new HIV cases reported among homosexual men.

This is true throughout the West, not just in Israel.

According to statistics compiled by the Health Ministry’s sexual diseases clinic in south Tel Aviv ‏(the Levinsky Clinic‏), the rate of HIV infection among homosexuals ‏(2,603 per 100,000‏) is 4.5 times the rate of infection among heterosexuals ‏(573 per 100,000‏).

The spike in HIV infections among homosexuals has led the Health Ministry to conduct periodic surveys of the sexual habits among homosexual men. In a survey of 2,000 homosexuals in 2010, 20% reported that they had had anal intercourse without using a condom in the past six months. This is a risk factor for contracting HIV.

Similarly, 25% of those surveyed reported using recreational drugs, which also increases the risk.

These results were similar to the previous survey that the ministry had conducted in 2005 among 2,569 homosexuals, in which a third of those with HIV ‏(33.8 percent‏) reported having casual sex, which increases the risk of infection. Of these, 40.6 percent reported having anal sex with random partners.

More than a third of those questioned ‏(35.3 percent‏) said they had a regular partner, but of these, 52.6 percent reported that they used condoms irregularly or not at all.

Meanwhile, well over a third ‏(44.3 percent‏) of those who said they had a regular partner were having casual sex with others at the same time.

Between 1981 through the end of 2011, there were 6,579 people in Israel who were diagnosed as having HIV or full-blown AIDS. Of this total, 1,265 were homosexual men.

The Health Ministry estimates that there are some 7,750 people with HIV in Israel, and that one-third of these people don’t know they are infected.

In January 2010 there was a reported spike of other sexually transmitted diseases among homosexuals, according to the clinic in south Tel Aviv. The incidence of penile gonorrhea was 55 percent higher among gay men than among straight men, while there were 16 times as many cases of pharyngeal ‏(throat‏) gonorrhea and 2.3 times as many cases of syphilis among homosexual men compared to heterosexual men.

The Health Ministry in recent years has initiated activities aimed at reducing new HIV infections among homosexuals by distributing condoms at gay clubs, removing the doors of saunas to prevent particularly risky anal sex, and promoting sexual health in Internet chat forums.

An AIDS awareness rally at the UN in New York. Credit: Reuters

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