Reasons for HIV antibody testing: plus ca change?*

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Abstract

Summary

Patient records in a central London genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic relating to HIV testing were examined and compared for the 3 months immediately before and after World AIDS Day (WAD) in 1994, according to gender and sexual orientation, and the reasons given for testing. Additionally, patient-identified risk was compared with counsellor-identified risk in each case in 1994. Findings were compared with data from the initial HIV awareness campaign in 1986-87.

In the 1994 study period, there were no significant differences in overall numbers attending or gender of test-seekers before and after WAD, or proportions of heterosexual, bisexual and gay test-seekers across the time periods. Within each of these groups, gay test seekers were significantly more likely to be HIV positive than heterosexuals, although there were no differences in numbers found positive in each group before and after WAD. Thirty-five per cent (n=268) reported a history of safer sex only, 32% (n=247) said `sometimes', and 33% (n=249) said `no'. Overall, the main reasons given for HIV test-seeking included having part of a sexual health screen, having episodes of unprotected sex and/or casual partners, concern over partner's status/monogamy, and intravenous drug user(IDU) contact. Reasons for testing in 1994 reflected greater awareness of HIV transmission compared to 1986-87, although only one-third of those tested reported a history of safer sex.

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