High-risk Asian men untested for HIV

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Source: Reuters Health

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(HONG KONG) — The vast majority of Chinese men who report having had sex with prostitutes do not undergo HIV testing, according to a Chinese University study.

From random telephone calls to about 2,000 people, Dr. Joseph Tak-fai Lau and his colleagues identified 252 Hong Kong men between the ages of 18 and 60 who reported they had visited at least one prostitute during the previous seven months. Of these, 85 reported having sex with another man.

Of the men who visited sex workers, only 16% said they had been tested for HIV during the past 6 months. Of respondents who reported not always using a condom, only 17% said they had received an HIV test in the previous 6 months. Only 15.5% of the men who’d ever had sex with men had sought HIV testing during the previous 6 months.

To contrast, in Western countries, such as the United States and Switzerland, the test rate of high-risk populations is as high as 50% to 60%, according to Lau.

In the Hong Kong study, 31.5% of respondents said they didn’t take an HIV test immediately for fear of a positive result, while 23.8% thought their chances of being infected were very low and 11.9% admitted they were frightened of being identified.

“The community is not supportive here and these men fear isolation if they test positive…The social environment has to be improved,” Lau told Reuters Health in a telephone interview.

Lau called on AIDS non-government organizations to encourage more HIV testing, adding that less than 10% of the respondents were tested at such sites.

“In the past, these organizations have been concerned that a negative test would give someone a false sense of security and now dedicate most of their resources to prevention,” he explained. “More resources need to be dedicated to testing,” Lau said.