Four out of every 10 HIV-infected people surveyed at two New England hospitals failed to inform sex partners about their condition, and nearly two-thirds of those didn’t always use a condom, researchers said.
The survey subjects were mostly poor, often illegal drug users and commonly lacked high school educations, but researchers reporting in today issue of Archives of Internal Medicine believe withholding HIV information is widespread.
“The public health message … is that if you don’t know the HIV status of your partner, you should be having safe sex” by using a condom, said the lead researcher, Dr. Michael Stein, director of HIV medical activities at Brown University Medical School in Providence, R.I.
Researchers questioned 203 HIV-positive patients receiving treatment at Boston City Hospital and Rhode Island Hospital between 1994 and 1996, and 129 reported sexual activity during the previous six months.
Subjects with only one sexual partner were three times more likely to have told their partners than subjects with multiple partners. Also, subjects who said they had a lot of support from their spouse were almost three times as likely to tell.
Whites and Hispanics were three times as likely to tell partners as blacks.
Among the sexually active patients, 46 percent were black, 23 percent were Hispanic and 27 percent were white. In the group, 69 percent were men.
Forty-one percent were infected through injection drug use, 20 percent were men who contracted the virus via homosexual contact, and 39 percent received HIV from heterosexual contact, researchers said.
Stein noted that previous surveys of gay men reached similar findings, especially the high likelihood of disclosure to a single partner and reduced likelihood among those with multiple partners.