The CDC has recommended, for years, annual HIV tests for gay and bi men at low risk, and more frequent tests for those at higher risk. It is not clear how well this was communicated.

In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that about 67 percent of the gay and bi men had taken the HIV test in the past year. An examination of the LGBT press in South Florida found no evidence for a systematic attempt to inform those at risk of this recommendation.

In 2011, the CDC tested everyone for HIV in another national study of gay and bi men. In this study, 680 (about 9 percent) of the subjects had become HIV infected after their last HIV negative test or had never taken the HIV test. These 680 gay and bi men are the Unaware Infected, people who can honestly, but inaccurately, claim to be “HIV negative.”

Among the Unaware Infected, the chance of HIV infection did not differ between low- and high-risk subjects in this study. The CDC understood this to mean that even low risk gay and bi men would benefit from testing more frequently than once per year.

The CDC study of 2013 found a disturbing pattern for potential HIV infection. The Unaware Infected were twice as likely to have had unprotected anal sex with a partner of unknown or HIV negative status than either known HIV positives or true HIV negatives. This high-risk activity would account for their own infection. It also increased the likelihood that they had unknowingly infected others. This presents serious problems for HV negative serosorting.

In the 2013 study, among those who at the start of the study had no prior HIV positive result, about 8 percent had never tested, and about 5 percent had failed to retest in five or more years. Among the Unaware Infected of that study, about 12 percent had never tested and about 16 percent had failed to retest in five or more years.

The LGBT media would be the logical place to look for any systematic attempt to inform those at risk of this recommendation. As Stonewall Library stores back issues of the South Florida LGBT press, it would be feasible to examine printed matter. While a motivated person would google CDC recommendations, someone unmotivated would only notice stimuli designed to grab his attention such as advertisements. Those advertisements would be the best place to look for this attempt.

SFGN examined back issues of South Florida Gay News and the Agenda from May 13, 2013 through December 31, 2014 and Wired (Miami) from May 16, 2013 through May 8, 2014. The goal was to find evidence in ads of a systematic attempt to inform people about this recommendation.

Out of 7,915 pages examined, 87 pages (1.1 percent) mentioned HIV testing, the majority were ads for HIV testing. Of these, only five contained any reference to regularly scheduled HIV tests. Those five messages were in small type and vague: “if you engage in activities that put you at risk for HIV on a regular basis you should test regularly.” No ads stated an optimal regular HIV testing schedule.

The data fails to indicate a knowledge deficit about the importance of HIV testing. The data does indicate the absence of a systematic attempt to inform those at risk of an optimal HIV testing frequency.

To read the 2013 CDC report please visit
http://1.usa.gov/1cYMlTE

To read the 2011 CDC study, please visit
http://1.usa.gov/1QTYs5G


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