New figures released by Israel’s Ministry of Health indicate a disheartening 55% increase in HIV infections since 2005.
From 1981 t0 2011 there were 6,579 people in Israel who tested positive for HIV or AIDS, with 1,265 of them gay men. Haaretz reports that there are now an estimated 7,750 people living with HIV in Israel, though a full third of them don’t know it.
The rate of HIV infection among gay Israeli men is 4.5 times that of their heterosexual counterparts. The health department—which has increased programs to combat the epidemic—also reports upticks in other STIs among gay men, including gonorrhea and syphillis.
An increase in risky sexual behavior is considered a main culprit in the rise in infections: More than 20% of gay Israeli men reported barebacking. Of the respondents who said they regularly had casual partners, that number jumped to 40%.
Shai Doitsh of the Israeli LGBT group Aguda, told Gay Star News:
The reason to the spike in HIV infection among the community has several factors; Firstly, the transformation of HIV/AIDS into a chronic manageable disease has decreased the fear effect.
Secondly, this is the generation that did not experience the plague… young people that did not witness the eruption of the epidemic and the death of their dear ones.
Thirdly, there is an increase in risk behavior, especially with recreational drugs and unprotected sex.
It’s not clear if perhaps increased awareness and testing have led to an increase in reported cases, rather than actual infections. Let’s hope so.