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Overview of the Study

People newly infected with HIV are at their most infectious phase but mostly unaware of their infection status at this time. Fortunately, new laboratory testing methods can now detect HIV infection at a much earlier stage. This makes it possible to offer programs to these recently infected individuals, including professional and peer counselling, as well as support to prevent transmission of HIV to others. For more information on these testing technologies, please see the section on “What is Acute HIV Infection?

Our team of researchers formed to work with the gay community in British Columbia to strengthen prevention programs for persons with new infections, as well as to increase awareness of acute HIV infection among HIV-negative gay men and other men who have sex with men. Our study recruited participants who were HIV-negative and recently HIV-positive. The team members are from the biomedical sciences, public health, social sciences, and researchers based in the community itself.

The HIV-Negative Cohort

This study explored:

  • Gay and bisexual men’s understanding of HIV testing
  • Gay, bisexual and other MSM’s motivations and challenges in taking an HIV test
  • Knowledge and interest of new testing technologies (such as the NAAT test or rapid HIV test) among HIV-negative gay, bisexual, and other MSM
  • Risk behaviours and sexual networks of HIV-negative gay, bisexual, and other MSM
  • The relationship of sexual health to physical, social and mental health  of HIV-negative gay, bisexual, and other MSM

For the HIV-negative cohort, the research team collaborated with a community-based organization, Health Initiative for Men, in order to ensure that members of the community were directly involved in the planning of the study’s objectives and design. This study was open to all members of the community including gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men but do not necessarily identify as gay or bisexual. All men coming into the HIM sexual health clinic were offered to participate in this study if they wished.

Men who participated must have had a recent HIV-negative result from the HIM clinic within the past 4 weeks, received a study invitation and be 19 years or older.

An important aspect of this study was to determine what motivates HIV-negative gay and bisexual men to test for HIV, and to use this information to inform the development of future HIV testing programs and services in the community.