A former PLWHA Victoria campaign coordinator says not enough is being done to tackle the alarming rise in new HIV infections among young men in the state.
Following a recent presentation at the Victoria AIDS Council on the media and HIV reportage, Daniel Reeders — who has since left employment at PLWHA Victoria — told Southern Star he is angered by what he feels is an overlooked age group at risk.
Although Victoria experienced a marginal overall drop in new HIV diagnoses in 2008, new cases among those aged 20–29 years old have risen 35 percent since 2007.
According to recent Human Services department figures, 52 new cases of HIV were reported in the 20-29 year age group in 2007, compared to 70 cases in 2008.
In those aged 30-39 years, new HIV diagnoses dropped by two in 2008 and for those 40-49 years, 16 fewer cases were recorded than in 2007.
“There’s a difference in patterns of sexual behaviour in younger guys,” Reeders said.
“Younger people are often quite pro-gay marriage, quite comfortable about the idea of casual sex and the way they reconcile those attitudes is they have lots of short monogamous relationships.
“They might be two weeks or three weeks in length, but he’s your partner and you trust him and you love him. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out how that combination of love and trust in a very short relationship, and lots of relationships, puts people at risk of HIV infection.”
Reeders said although the current VAC campaign using porn images may target the high-risk over-30 years age group, it does not speak to gay men in a younger age bracket.
“Those images are very explicit. They’re about casual sex, they’re showing a high level of confidence young men don’t identify with or respond to,” he said.
“Our failure to invest in prevention campaigns in targeting them now is going to have an impact in 10, 20, 30 years time … it’s really short-sighted.”

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