A study has shown rates of HIV in France are 200 times higher in homosexual men than amongst heterosexuals.
Scientists from the French National Institute for Public Health Surveillance found that nearly half of the 7,000 people newly infected with HIV in the country in 2008 were gay men.
Stephane le Vu, who led the research said HIV transmission “seems to be out of control” amongst men who have sex with men (MSM).
Medical experts note that anal intercourse is, by its nature, one of the most risky forms of sexual activity.
Sexual health specialists Dr John Dean and Dr David Delvin have warned that the practice carries a greater risk of spreading sexually transmitted infections than almost any other type of sexual activity.
And the UK Blood Transfusion and Tissue Transplantation Services will not accept blood donations from men who have had sex with men, regardless of whether they used a condom. This policy is based on an impartial assessment of the available evidence and is designed to ensure a safe blood supply.
Out of control
The French study showed despite HIV falling between 2003 and 2008 in some groups, the number of infections among homosexual men remained at a similar level.
“Our results provide a new perspective on the HIV epidemic in France,” said Stephane le Vu.
“HIV transmission disproportionately affects certain risk groups and seems to be out of control in the MSM population”, the researcher added.
Last week a separate survey found men who have sex with other men are fuelling HIV infections in Europe.
Belgian researchers examined 500 patients who had recently been diagnosed with HIV, and discovered that most of the infections were among young white men who have sex with men.
The research, conducted by the scientists from Ghent University, also revealed that these men were more likely to have contracted other sexually transmitted infections such as syphilis.
The report’s findings have received the backing of the UK’s largest sexual health charity, the Terrence Higgins Trust.
Nick Partridge, chief executive of the Trust, said: “Gay men are still the most at risk of HIV infection in the UK.
“We also know that more than a quarter of people with HIV in the UK are currently undiagnosed, and they’re far more likely to pass the virus on than those who know they have it.”