Science

AIDS rate rising from 'safe sex fatigue'

Researchers in Toronto say the tide is turning back more gay men in Ontario are being diagnosed with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Dr. Liviana Calzavara of the University of Toronto says the rate of infection went up from 1996 to 1999, all in the Toronto and Ottawa regions.

Rates had been going down in the early part of the '90s.

Calzavara says the reason for the increase is "safe sex fatigue."

"They've been practising safer sex now for over a decade and every once in awhile, they either have a slip. . . (or) they want to be intimate, closer to the person."

The infection rate in 1992 was 0.87 per 100 people tested. In 1999, that rose to 2.07 per 100 tested.

The reversal seems to mimic what health officials were saying last week in San Francisco. They warned HIV infections in their city had doubled after years of decline.

Authorities in both cities cite the success of new treatments and therapies for the cavalier attitude towards sex.

"They're saying things like, 'Now it's a chronic disease, it's a manageable disease'," says Calzavara. "People are living longer but their quality of life hasn't necessarily improved."

Calzavara's findings will be presented at next week's International AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) Conference in South Africa.

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