Since HIV infection rates began to rise again around 2000, researchers have been grasping for answers on what could be causing this change, especially in the homosexual community. The rising numbers are a stark contrast to the 1990's, when infection rates dropped due to increased awareness of the virus. A new study in Israel reveals that the number of new HIV cases diagnosed each year in the last decade saw a startling increase of almost 500% compared to the previous decade, and similar trends have been reported in a number of other developed nations, including the U.S.
According to Prof. Zehava Grossman of Tel Aviv University's School of Public Health at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Central Virology Laboratory of the Ministry of Health, a new approach to studying HIV transmission within a community has yielded a disturbing result. By cross-referencing several databases and performing a molecular analysis of the virus found in patients, an astonishingly high number of newly-diagnosed men with male sexual partners were found to have contracted the virus from infected, medicated partners who are already aware of their HIV-positive status.
Reported in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, these findings indicate that the public health approach towards HIV counselling and education needs to be reconsidered, Prof. Grossman says.
Bypassing the questionnaires
Researchers had begun to suspect that the rise in infection rates was due to a change in social behavior, but hard evidence was lacking. The answers, Prof. Grossman says, were not easy to find by asking the patients themselves. Questionnaires and similar methods to gather information are hard to interpret because, in addition to the difficulty of recruiting an accurate cross-section of the population, people are often unwilling to be frank about risky sexual behavior.
To unravel the mystery, Prof. Grossman and her colleagues at the
|Contact: George Hunka|
American Friends of Tel Aviv University