A fall in the proportion of gay and bisexual men using condoms is behind the rise in HIV infections in those groups in the UK, say researchers.
There is wider use of anti-retroviral drugs to stop a sharper rise of HIV, a study by the Health Protection Agency and a number of universities found. They also found that 26% rise from 1990-2010, in the proportion of men who have sex with men who did not use condoms. The figure includes in the report also showed that it was vital to promote safe sex.
The rate of HIV have been increasing in recent years with latest figures showing cases among men who have sex with men (MSM) in the UK reaching an all time high.
According to latest record reported by HPA, nearly half of the 6,280 people diagnosed in the UK in 2011 were MSM. Overall one in 20 MSM are infected with HIV.
Researchers analyzed different data from 1990 to 2010 for conducting the research and study. It concluded that infections would be 68% higher in MSM if the anti-retroviral drugs were not introduced to treat those with HIV. Therapy with anti-retrovirals lowers the risk of people with HIV infecting others.
The incidence of HIV could be 32% lower if all anti-retroviral treatment were prescribed from the moment of diagnosis rather that when health declined, report suggested.
The analysis also showed that, if all MSM had stopped using condoms from 2000, rates of HIV in this group would now be 400% higher, the journal PLoS one reported. The data also showed that the incidence of HIV could be dropped by a quarter if more HIV testing had been done.
Study leader Professor Andrew Phillips, from University College London, said: “By better understanding the driving forces behind the trends we’ve seen in the past, it will allow us to make informed choices to reduce new HIV infections in the future.”
Co-author Dr Valerie Delpech, who is head of HIV surveillance at the HPA, said: “Everyone should use a condom when having sex with new or casual partners, until all partners have had a sexual health screen.
“We also encourage men who have sex with men to get an HIV and STI screen at least annually, and every three months if having condomless sex with new or casual partners – and clinicians to take every opportunity to recommend HIV testing to this group.”
Sir Nick Partridge, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, said condom use by gay men had played a key part in containing the spread of HIV in the UK.
“Without it, there would have been 80,000 more gay men with HIV between 2000 and 2010.”
He added that the study showed the impact of the combined HIV strategy of promoting condoms, increasing regular HIV testing and encouraging the earlier use of anti-HIV drug therapy.
He added: “At a time when funding for local HIV prevention programmes is under threat, this only reinforces the important role which local authorities can and must play in funding local HIV prevention.”