Compared with older men who have sex with men (MSM), those aged under 35 were found to be more likely to have never previously been tested for HIV and more likely to report not knowing the HIV status of regular partners.
They were also more likely to report inconsistent condom use with casual and regular partners, according to a study published in the latest edition of the Medical Journal of Australia.
“Recent focus group data have shown that younger MSM are less likely to discuss HIV and other sexually transmitted infections with peers,” said Carol El-Hayek, Epidemiologist at the Centre for Population Health at the Burnet Institute in Melbourne.
“It has also been suggested that younger gay men may be more susceptible to engaging in risky sexual behaviour because they are less aware or less concerned about the implications of HIV since the introduction of (anti-retroviral treatment).”
Younger gay men were also found to be less likely to discuss HIV and other sexually transmitted infections with peers, she said.
Between 2000 and 2009, 1635 gay men or men who have sex with men were diagnosed with HIV in Victoria.
Ms El-Hayek said the median age of these cases had dropped from 38.8 years in 2007 to 35.9 years in 2009.
In 2009, the number of HIV diagnoses in gay men aged 25 to 29 years was 62 per cent higher than in 2007.
She said this trend could be driven by increased rates of unprotected sex among gay men, an increase in other sexually transmitted infections which make HIV transmission more likely, and more HIV-positive men being sexually active thanks to successful treatment.
Deciding how best to respond to increasing HIV diagnoses in younger gay men was difficult, she said.
“Any response developed would need to consider more diverse health promotion strategies to ensure that prevention messages reached young men who have sex with men.”
There are now some 33.4 million people globally living with HIV infection.
Article appeared in The Age, 12 December, 2010