By Randy Dotinga
FRIDAY, July 20 (HealthDay News) — New research pinpoints a major reason why gay and bisexual men remain so vulnerable to the AIDS epidemic: When it comes to the transmission of HIV, a man who has unprotected anal intercourse is at especially high risk.
In fact, if that kind of intercourse was only as risky as vaginal intercourse, researchers report, HIV cases among gay and bisexual men would shrink dramatically. It would go down even more, they added, if their rates of casual sex declined.
The reality, however, is much different. “Everywhere we looked, HIV is expanding both in high- and low-income countries among men who have sex with men,” said study author Dr. Chris Beyrer, director of the Johns Hopkins Fogarty AIDS International Training and Research Program.
The experts were quick to note that, worldwide, it is heterosexual men and women who are by far the majority of those who are infected with HIV. Still, more than 30 years into the AIDS epidemic, gay and bisexual men remain especially vulnerable to infection despite a heavy emphasis on condoms and HIV testing; these men make up the bulk of HIV cases in the United States and other Western countries.
According to UNAIDS, HIV is more common among gay and bisexual men than adults in general in all areas of the world, even Africa. In North America, an estimated 15 percent of gay and bisexual men are infected with HIV; the rate is the highest, 25 percent, in the Caribbean.
Previous research has shown that being on the receiving end of anal intercourse is equally risky whether you’re a man or a woman. The risk was estimated at 1.4 percent per sex act with an infected person — about 18 times more risky than male-to-female vaginal intercourse.