A Chicago HIV behavioral survey recently presented by the Chicago Department of Public Health shed more light on the local gay male population and its HIV risk behaviors.
Nikhil Prachand, a CDPH epidemiologist, presented 'Guided by the Community: Chicago HIV Behavioral Surveillance 2004-2007' on March 17. It is an assessment of HIV risk behaviors among Chicago MSM ( men who have sex with men ) , heterosexuals and injection drug users ( IDU's ) .
Project CHAT was a detailed, diverse survey conducted in 2004 on over 1,000 Chicago MSM. Hetersexuals and IDU's were also surveyed in later years. The purpose was to estimate and monitor risk behaviors, HIV testing behaviors and exposure to prevention.
MSM were surveyed at various community settings, such as bars, clubs and social organizations. The results provide interesting information about the local MSM community.
For example, although HIV testing rates were high across all groups, the study showed that nearly 30 percent of those surveyed were unaware of their current HIV status.
The results also showed where Chicago MSM received testing. Over a fourth reported testing at a doctor's office.Read more story below....
Light was also shed on Chicago MSM's sex behaviors. For example, 60 percent reported having three or more partners over the past year, and 75 percent had more than one sex partner. Forty-one percent reported having unprotected anal sex, which was more common with a main partner than a casual sex partner.
Nearly two-thirds had no idea of the HIV status of their last casual male partner, and one in three had unprotected sex with a male whose status was unknown.
Younger MSM frequented gay internet chat rooms at higher rates. For example 36 percent of 18-19 year olds visited such chat rooms more than one time a week. Younger MSM and MSM of color were also more likely to have had sex with a female partner.
Drug use was also evaluated. Among MSM drug users, 77 percent used marijuana, 38 percent used poppers, 33 percent used cocaine, 26 percent used Ecstasy and 20 percent used meth.
The number of sex partners was highest among frequent meth users. Non-meth using MSM had a mean of 7.4 sex partners. Those who used in the past year reported a mean of 16.6 partners, and MSM who used once a week or more reported a mean of 19.9 sex partners. Frequent meth users also reported much higher rates of unprotected anal intercourse in the past year ( 47 percent, compared with 16 percent of non-users ) .
With the information gathered, CDPH will develop new prevention strategies and tweak current strategies. Public health officials also hope to address current issues and trends, and evaluate local efforts.
A second phase will be conducted in the MSM community starting around June of this year. It will look at childhood experiences, drug use and public sex environments.