Sexual Enhancement Drugs Increase HIV Risk

A new Australian study has confirmed that gay men who take Viagra or other drugs aimed at enhancing sex are at an increased risk of contracting HIV.  However, researchers say the drugs themselves are not to blame. 

The study was presented at an HIV conference in Perth, Western Australia, on September 17.  The findings on this study is similar to US studies stating that there is an increased number of young American men who are diagnosed with HIV are taking substances.

The research was conducted by recording the drug-taking habits of 1,427 HIV-negative gay men and tracked them for four years in order to find patterns in HIV infection.  It was then found out that the sexual enhancing drugs such as amyl nitrate, methamphetamine, and Viagra were independently associated with seroconversion, an illness occurring after being infected with HIV.

However, according to Dr. Garrett Prestage of National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research in Sydney, the drugs themselves were not responsible for the increased risk, but rather the lack of responsibility for safe sex.

"It’s not about men getting out of it and screwing up, making mistakes, as everyone seems to think," Dr. Prestage said.  "It’s not because they take drugs that they become infected.  It’s because these men are into taking risks in general, whether it be with sex or with drugs."

Meanwhile, new survey figures show that new HIV diagnoses in Australia are increasing, from 998 new notifications in 2006 to 1,051 in 2007.  There was also an increase among older heterosexual men from Queensland and Western Australia contracting the infection while on business in Papua New Guinea and parts of Asia.

However, HIV experts believe that the main growth is among gay men adopting increasingly risky sexual practices in some cities, with Brisbane and Victoria being tagged as hot spots.  Dr. Prestage said his findings, meanwhile, show that the HIV risk is not universal among gay men but to a small group of risk takers.

"We need to be targeting our messages to men who play in more sexually adventurous scenes where risks with both drugs and sex are common," he said.

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