New study gives insights into gay men
Thursday, 17 July 2003
The pre-conception that most gay men are young, upper middle-class, advantaged members of society has been shattered by the results of a new study by the University of Adelaide.
The study, published in this month's issue of the British journal HIV Medicine, was conducted by a team led by Dr Gary Rogers from the Health in Human Diversity Unit of the University's Department of General Practice.
The main aim of the study was to investigate the link between depression and unsafe sexual practices among gay men seeing a GP in Adelaide, with 460 homosexually active men taking part in the survey.
It is believed to be the first study of its kind in the world to look at both low-level depression and severe depression among gay men.
The men surveyed have been enrolled in the Care & Prevention Programme in Adelaide, a government-funded project aimed at assisting people with, or at increased risk of, HIV.
"Our study has found that gay men suffering from long-term, lower grade depression (known as dysthymia) are almost twice as likely to have unsafe casual sex and therefore have greater risk of contracting HIV, while those with severe depression reported less sex overall," Dr Rogers says.
"We believe that the low self-esteem that is part of long-term depression leads to men not caring enough about themselves to stay safe," he says.
"Our study also shows that integrated health programs such as the Care & Prevention Programme have an important role to play. We have seen a significant drop in the level of depression among gay men enrolled in the program over the past five years, and an impact on their safe sex practices," Dr Rogers says.
The study also shows that of the 460 men surveyed:
- 35% were HIV positive, 62% HIV negative (3% had not been tested)
- the average age was 39 years
- 83% were born in Australia, almost all were Caucasian
- 40% lived alone
- 53% were employed or self employed, either full or part-time
- only 36% of HIV-positive men had employment (both HIV-positive and HIV-negative men were less likely to be employed in the South Australian community generally)
- both groups had incomes below the average for South Australians generally
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