November 2006

Teen sex ignorance proves widespread

British teenagers are ill-informed about safer sex and potential sexual risks, according to several new studies published this month.

An online study by LunarStorm, found the thing that a quarter of 15-20 year olds feared most about sex was 'being bad at it'.

A similar percentage said catching a sexually transmitted disease (STI) was their greatest fear.

Gay youth website Puffta said it feared twice as many gay teenagers may have contacted HIV this year than in 2005.

Puffta editor Simon Johnson said: "Many gay teens are still not taking precautions. We are worried that this year's figures will be truly shocking."

The survey revealed almost half of gay teens had regular unprotected sex, with over a third not knowing their HIV status.

And even when condoms are used, 16-18 year-olds did not use them correctly.

Meanwhile a huge survey of 30,000 young people aged 16-24 found 80 per cent said sex education at school only covered the 'basics' and teachers were not ranked highly as an important source of sex advice.

DVD for newly diagnosed

'Positive Living', an educational DVD for people newly diagnosed with HIV, has been produced by Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceuticals and the Terrence Higgins Trust.

Designed to answer commonly asked questions posed by people newly diagnosed, it will be distributed free via clinics throughout the country and at the THT.

Pool male hygiene ups HIV risk

Washing the penis and keeping it dry cuts the risk of HIV infection in both circumcised and uncircumcised men.

Researchers from Ealing Hospital, London, suspected that penile wetness would increase HIV acquisition risk, and that keeping the area under the foreskin dry may reduce that risk.

To test the theory they studied 386 uncircumcised South African men. They found half had some degree of wetness on their penises. Around 80 per cent were judged to be slightly wet, 19 per cent as wet, and two per cent as very wet.

By comparison, only one of 36 circumcised men had wetness.

Factors associated with penile wetness were younger age, low level of education, low income, higher lifetime numbers of sexual partners and not washing after sex.

Two thirds of the men defined as having wet penises were HIV positive, compared to 45.9 per cent of those with no wetness.

The authors noted that HIV prevalence among uncircumcised men without penile wetness was close to that of circumcised men (42.9 per cent).

Although many factors associated with penile wetness were poverty-related, the researchers recommended provision of more information, education, and communication programmes that included advice on pre- and post coital washing.

Interventions to improve genital hygiene may also be effective in reducing HIV infection risk.

JAIDS 2006; 43: 69-77, 117-118

European HIV ignorance hits new low

The level of ignorance about HIV transmission in Europe is getting worse, according to a recent Eurobarometer survey.

Only 55 per cent of all Europeans know for certain that HIV can't be transmitted by sitting on a toilet seat, according to a new study. Thirty per cent of Europeans think it is possible to be infected by a meal prepared by someone who is HIV positive. Handling objects touched by someone with HIV can transmit the virus, according to 22 per cent and 17 per cent think that shaking hands will have the same result.

The new accession states appear to be the least well informed, with Slovakia topping the list, but the 'old' 15 states, including the UK, show a worrying decrease in awareness as well.

Meanwhile, although most Europeans (94 per cent) know HIV can be transmitted via unprotected sex, 40 per cent of them take no precautions.

The result is a 39 per cent increase in infections in the past five years, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Portugal and Estonia have the highest rates of infection, more than three times the average for Europe.

LA ads 'seek to re-gay HIV'

A new HIV campaign is targeting gay men in Los Angeles with the stark phrase: 'HIV is a gay disease'.

With the message and tag line 'Own It. End It', the LA Gay and Lesbian Center says it is trying to reach HIV-complacent gay men.

The ads have stunned gay and HIV charities who recall the early years of the epidemic when anti-gay rhetoric was used and homophobic stigma was loaded onto the gay population.

Countdown to World AIDS Day

The National AIDS Trust (NAT) has announced this year's World AIDS Day (1st December) theme - "You, Me, Us: We can prevent the spread of HIV and end prejudice"; and launched its Virtual Red Ribbon campaign which aims to get 7,000 organisations sporting the famous ribbon online - one for each person who will be newly diagnosed with HIV in the UK this year.

The Virtual Ribbon will direct people to the UK World AIDS Day website ( where they can get ideas for taking action including fundraising, ensuring your workplace doesn't discriminate against people with HIV and campaigning for free HIV treatment for all.

Christian Voice leader arrested

Stephen Green, the leader of Christian Voice, a self-styled "prayer and lobby group", was taken into custody by South Wales Police at Cardiff Mardi Gras on Saturday September 2nd. He was arrested and charged under Section 5 of the Public Order Act, which covers behaviour likely to cause "harassment, alarm or distress".

Police say he had continually refused to stop handing out copies of a homophobic evangelical leaflet to people as they entered Bute Park, where Wales' annual Pride event was held.

Mr Green was kept in the cells at Cardiff Police Station for over four hours, and was due to appear at the city's magistrates' courts on Wednesday September 6th, just after GT had gone to press.

In a swiftly released statement, Green commented: "I thank God for the honour of being locked up for sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All the same, I'm astonished that South Wales Police has a special unit dedicated to silencing those who disagree with homosexuality. Stonewall, the homosexual rights organisation, says the South Wales Police Minorities Support Unit 'works closely with the LGBT communities'. Maybe they work a bit too closely when an evangelist can be victimised simply because he's giving out leaflets quoting verses from the same Bible police officers swear on in court".

Does getting arrested at a Gay Pride event fulfill a long-time ambition for Green? He once published a one-off magazine, Homosexuality and the Police, explaining how "police chiefs push the 'gay' agenda".

Story from Gay Times -

University's gay health course

The Terrence Higgins Trust has teamed up with The University of East London to put gay men's health at the top of the syllabus in an innovative new qualification for aspiring healthcare professionals.

The University Certificate in Gay Men's Health Promotion tackles mental health, current health policies, and offers cultural and historical perspectives on gay men's healthcare. Students will undergo work placements at the THT or one of its partner organisations.

Ilana Morrissey of the UEL said: "This innovative collaboration will enable students to gain both an academic and a professional grounding in the areas most central to the field of gay men's health promotion. It's a terrific opportunity for career development within this important sector of public health".

Story from Gay Times -

HIV GBH man given sentence

The first gay man to be convicted of passing on HIV has been sentenced in absentia, and is still on the run from the police.

Mark James, 47, of Burgess Hill was sentenced to 40 months in prison for Grievous Bodily Harm for "recklessly" passing on the HIV virus to an ex-boyfriend.

After originally pleading guilty at Isleworth Crown Court, James tried to change his plea to "not guilty", but was refused. After he failed to appear for sentencing, a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Robert Ellison, defending, said: "There's no evidence that this was an act that was done maliciously".

DeborahJack, chief executive of the National AIDS Trust (NAT) said, "Where there's no evidence of deliberate intention to infect someone else with HIV, NAT doesn't believe criminal prosecutions are an effective way of reducing the transmission of HIV".

Story from Gay Times -

Syphilis on the rise among gay men

More evidence that the safer-sex message is no longer heeded comes in new figures, showing a 2000% rise in cases of syphilis in the UK. The Health Protection Agency says that in 1996 there were only 20 new syphilis cases among gay men, but in 2005 that had risen to 1445, with 60% of all cases among gay men.

The message is clear - if you put yourself at risk of syphilis, you also risk HIV infection, and there's no magic bullet for that. The only protection we have is condoms. What's the problem?

Story from Gay Times -