HIV spread "out of control" among French gay men

Wed Sep 8, 2010 11:09pm GMT

By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) - Transmission of the AIDS virus seems to be "out of control" among gay men in France despite an overall fall in the number of new HIV cases in the country, according to a study published on Thursday.

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, and the incidence among homosexual men is 200 times higher than in the heterosexual population.

Experts said the findings showed that French authorities needed to revise and renew prevention strategies and ensure they were properly targeted at groups most at risk of HIV infection.

The human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS infects 33.4 million people globally. In sub-Saharan Africa, 22.4 million people have it, and Eastern Europe currently has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world.

Thursday's study, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, found that HIV in France fell significantly from 8,930 new infections in 2003 to 6,940 in 2008.

But the number of new infections among gay men was stable despite a decline in other groups, and accounted for 48 percent of new cases in France in 2008.

Non-French-nationals living in France accounted for around 23 percent of all new infections in 2008 and for 45 percent of the infections transmitted heterosexually. Most were immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa, the researchers said.

The number of new infections among injecting drug users -- a group in which HIV epidemics are spreading rapidly in other parts of Europe -- was low and stable in France over the 5-year study period, accounting for only 1 or 2 percent of new infections every year.   Continued...

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