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Sexual behaviour of people living with HIV in London: implications for HIV transmission

Elford, Jonathana; Ibrahim, Fowziaa; Bukutu, Ceciliaa; Anderson, Janeb

doi: 10.1097/01.aids.0000255087.62223.ff

Objective: To examine the sexual behaviour of gay men as well as black African heterosexual men and women living with diagnosed HIV in London, and to consider the implications for HIV transmission.

Methods: People living with HIV receiving treatment and care in outpatient clinics in north east London were asked to complete a confidential, self-administered questionnaire in 2004–2005. Respondents were asked about unprotected anal or vaginal intercourse in the previous 3 months, and the type (main or casual) and HIV status of their partner(s).

Results: A total of 1687 people with diagnosed HIV returned a completed questionnaire (response rate 73% of eligible clinic attenders) including 480 black African heterosexual women, 224 black African heterosexual men and 758 gay/bisexual men (464 white, 112 ethnic minority). One in five gay men with HIV (20.1%, 144/715) reported unprotected anal intercourse with a partner of unknown or discordant HIV status (usually a casual partner). This presents a risk of HIV transmission. By comparison, one in 20 (5.1%, 32/623) black African heterosexual men and women with HIV reported unprotected vaginal intercourse that presented a risk of HIV transmission; odds ratio (gay men versus black African men and women combined) 5.28, 95% confidence interval 3.52, 7.91, P < 0.001. Neither viral load nor being on HAART were significantly associated with unprotected intercourse among gay men or black African heterosexual men and women (P > 0.05).

Conclusion: Behavioural research among people with diagnosed HIV in London shows that gay men are more likely than black African heterosexual men and women to engage in sexual behaviour that presents a risk of HIV transmission.

From the aCity University London, London, UK

bHomerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK.

Received 4 April, 2006

Revised 10 August, 2006

Accepted 6 November, 2006

Correspondence to Jonathan Elford, City University London, Institute of Health Sciences, St Bartholomew School of Nursing and Midwifery, 24 Chiswell Street, London EC1Y 4TY, UK. Tel: +44 020 7040 5702; fax: +44 020 7040 5717; e-mail:

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.