The 2011 Annual Report of Trends in Behaviour was released on Tuesday, 27 September, at the Australasian HIV/AIDS Conference in Canberra. The report reviews social and behavioural research on HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections.

Stigma remains a major issue for people affected by HIV, hepatitis C or drug dependence. In HIV prevention, survey research indicates that despite safe sex being well embedded, gay men’s social networks are diversifying, posing a challenge to educators. “As gay men have become more integrated into mainstream society, they have become a less cohesive group to target in HIV education and prevention,” said Dr Martin Holt, Senior Research Fellow at CSRH. In addition, the proportion of gay men engaging in unprotected sex with casual partners has increased over time to 38 percent of men with casual partners in 2010.

“These are often isolated or occasional incidents of unprotected sex, and may occur in situations where both partners believe they have the same HIV status,” said Dr Holt. “However, attempts by gay men to limit HIV transmission by disclosing HIV status are not always effective.” After significant improvements in HIV testing rates, the proportion of gay men reporting recent HIV testing has fallen to 59 percent of men in 2010. This suggests that new ways need to be found to make it easier for gay men to undergo regular sexual health checkups and HIV testing.

“The proposed changes to Australia’s National HIV Testing Policy to allow community-based, rapid HIV testing may make testing more accessible to at-risk groups,” Dr Holt said.

Media coverage of the release of the 2011 Annual Report of Trends in Behaviour includes:
"WA's HIV rate on the rise", The West Australian 
"Fewer gay men having HIV tests", Medical Observer
"Gay men having more unsafe sex", Sydney Star Observer