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Source of HIV Infection Changing in Connecticut

September 7, 2010

HARTFORD, Conn. - Almost since HIV/AIDS was identified in the early 1980s, the main route of infection nationwide was men who had sex with men. But not in Connecticut, where it was mainly spread by drug users sharing contaminated needles.

However, recent data show the situation in the state is reversing. Bill Petrosky has worked in the field for 25 years and heads HIV prevention for the Hartford Gay and Lesbian Health Collective.

"The numbers have inverted where the numbers of new infections of HIV are in the gay and bisexual men's communities versus the intravenous drug users."

He says because of syringe exchange programs in the state, the rate of HIV infection among drug users dropped by half between 2002 and 2009, whereas the rate of HIV infection among men who have sex with men more than doubled in the same time period.

Petrosky notes the percentage of the 10,000 individuals living with HIV/AIDS is still higher among IV drug users - about 43 percent - than among gay and bisexual men, but that the categories are headed in opposite directions. Meanwhile, he adds, HIV infections from heterosexual contact have remained steady: They stood at 28 percent in 2009.

"We're just making sure that we reach out to the harder-to-reach communities of gay men - the African American gay and bisexual men, the Latino gay and bisexual men - to make sure they're in for testing on a regular basis."

He says prevention is the way to go.

"We are getting the word out there about using protection when they have sex, especially if they're with multiple partners."

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT