Tuesday 8 May, 2012 12-1pm
Attitudes towards hepatitis C and perceptions of hepatitis C risk practices amongst gay men: findings from the Heptagon Study
Loren Brener, Jeanne Ellard, Dean Murphy, Denton Callander
Speakers: Dr Loren Brener and Dr Jeanne Ellard, NCHSR
In Australia, hepatitis C (HCV) is most commonly transmitted through injecting drug use. Less clear are the primary causes of transmission specific to gay and bisexual men. Shifting notions of safe sex, HIV transmission risk and the sexual cultures of some gay men further complicate these issues. Because of the relationship between drug use and high-risk sexual practices, it can be hard to determine the factors responsible for transmission of HCV. Nonetheless there is emerging evidence of increases in the sexual transmission of HCV among gay men,
particularly among men who are HIV-positive. Five hundred and ninety participants completed an online survey assessing a range of variables including perceptions of HCV risk, HCV knowledge and attitudes towards people with HCV. Overall, the findings of this study show that gay men have relatively good knowledge and awareness of HCV transmission including the risk of sexual transmission. The sample was divided into three groups, HIV-positive (n = 106), HIV-negative (n = 360) and HIV status unknown (n = 114) with 10 unreported. Comparisons across the groups reveal differences on a range of
items. The HIV-positive group was the most socially inclusive of, and least likely to stigmatise, people with HCV. They were also most likely to engage in sexual practices that put them at risk of contracting HCV. These findings are discussed in light of the significant health issues and more rapid disease progression which may be associated with HIV and HCV co-infection.
Dr Loren Brener is a Research Fellow in the Viral Hepatitis Programme at NCHSR.
Dr Jeanne Ellard is a Research Fellow in the HIV Programme and the Viral Hepatitis Programme at NCHSR.
Mr Dean Murphy is a Research Associate at NCHSR and an HIV Education Officer at the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations.
Mr Denton Callander is a Masters by Research student at NCHSR.