A Dutch poll of gay, HIV-positive men found that they took into consideration their viral load in 20 to 57 percent of incidents of unprotected sex, depending on their relationship with the partner and his HIV status, aidsmap reports. Publishing their findings in the journal AIDS Behavior, investigators in the Netherlands polled 177 gay men with an undetectable HIV viral load about how they take their viral load into consideration before engaging in unprotected sex.

Sixty-eight percent (120) of the 177 men reported ever having unprotected anal sex since receiving their HIV diagnosis, and out of that group, 61 percent (73) had sex without a condom the last time they had anal intercourse.

Before engaging in unprotected sex with another HIV-positive man, the men in the poll took their viral load into consideration 55 percent of the time with sex “buddies,” compared with 20 percent of the time with casual partners. This difference, however, was only marginally significant, meaning that, owing to the small sample size in the poll, the difference has a moderate likelihood of having occurred by chance. With partners perceived to be HIV negative, there was no significant difference between the likelihood of taking viral load into consideration, with 40 percent considering viral load before unprotected sex with “buddies” and 57 percent before sex with casual partners.

The men discussed viral load openly when deciding whether to engage in unprotected sex with other HIV-positive men more than 91 percent of the time. But with HIV negative partners, these open discussions occurred in only 13 to 25 percent of cases, indicating that such decisions were one-sided.

To read the aidsmap story, click here.

To read the study abstract, click here.