The men were asked about the HIV and hepatitis C
status of their sexual partners over the last year. Specifically, “Are all,
most or some of your partners HIV positive/HIV negative/of unknown status?”. A
similar question was asked about hepatitis C.
The HIV-negative men were
just as likely to know or believe that at least some of their partners had HIV
as the HIV-positive ones – 81% versus 83%. In fact only 69% knew or believed
that all, most or some of their partners did not have HIV – this
suggests that over 30% could not confidently report that any of their sex partners were HIV negative,
though 69% reported that they had had at least some partners whose HIV status they
did not know.
As for the HIV-positive men, 58% reported that
at least some of their partners did not have HIV, and 54% reported partners of
unknown status, though these are figures may be under-reported due to
perceived social undesirability.
The situation with hepatitis C was very
different. While 69% of HIV-negative and 50% of HIV-positive men reported that
at least some of their partners were of unknown hepatitis C status, only 25% of
HIV-negative and 12.5% of HIV-positive men reported that “some, most or all” of
their partners did have hepatitis C.
In other words, 75% of negative men and 87.5% of positive men could not point
to any partner in the last year they knew had hepatitis C, even though they had
caught it themselves.
In some ways this is not that surprising. There
is no PrEP for hepatitis C – so people are less likely to willingly have sex with
someone who has it, and people with it may be less likely to disclose. And
people are less often tested so may not know their status anyway.
However, it does suggest that gay men, HIV-positive and negative alike, who engage in high risk sexual practices are
underestimating the likelihood of partners having hepatitis C and may not be