Objectives: We examined whether trends in HIV testing in community-based samples of homosexual men may account for the convergence in HIV notification rates in homosexual men across the eastern states of Australia.
Methods: We examined data on self-reported HIV testing from annual cross-sectional, self-completed anonymous surveys of homosexual men conducted between 1998 and 2006 in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Men were recruited at gay community venues and events. Comparisons of HIV testing between the three cities and across time were carried out. We also compared reported rates of HIV testing across states in Private Lives, the 2005 online survey of health and wellbeing among non-heterosexual people.
Results: Men recruited from clinics had a much higher prevalence of HIV testing and were excluded from further analyses. Among the 48 263 completed questionnaires obtained in non-clinic sites, there was a marked decline in the proportion of men who had never been tested for HIV in Sydney (from 8.1 to 5.1%, P trend < 0.001) and Brisbane (from 11.8 to 7.9%, P trend = 0.002) but no change in Melbourne. This proportion of men who had never been tested was lower in Sydney than in either Melbourne or Brisbane (P < 0.001). There were increases in the proportion of non-HIV-positive men who had been tested for HIV in the previous year across all three cities, although the proportion in Melbourne was lower than in the other two cities.
Conclusion: These data suggest that changes in HIV testing rates among homosexual men are insufficient to account for the recent differences in trends in HIV notifications in eastern Australia.