Friday, May 13, 2011

Department of Health wants to know about your sex life

Posted By on May 13, 2011, 4:00 AM

Utah's Department of Health wants Utahns to take a survey on their sexual behavior to evaluate the Beehive State's needs for HIV and STD prevention services and help secure funds for the next five years of the DoH's battle to prevent HIV infection.---

The survey, which seeks information on an anonymous basis, reflects the new national strategy on HIV to intensify testing and prevention efforts announced by President Barack Obama last June, according to the Utah DoH's communicable disease program contract manager Edwin Espinel.

Go here to take part in the survey, which is for individuals 18 years and older and takes 10-20 minutes to complete.

With funding emphasis placed on the U.S.'s 12 major cities, Utah, which has cumulatively by end December 2009, had almost 2,500 AIDS cases, is a "low-incidence state," Espinel says. That means it gets less funding, "and so we have to do more with less money." But the number of people who are HIV-positive continues to climb in Utah, up 5.7 percent from 2008 to 112 in 2009, with a 16.7 percent increase in AIDS cases, to 77, reported in the same period. However, the number of AIDS deaths in 2009 compared to 2008 dropped from 24 to 19 deaths. The war against HIV is funded primarily through grants, and this year Utah's DoH will be applying for grants to cover the next five years. Data from the survey "will help us make the best possible case for Utah," Espinel says. That way, funds for prevention services that the community says, through the survey's data, are needed, will hopefully be secured.

Previous surveys have focused on men having sex with men, but this new survey seeks data from the entire community. "Approximately half of the infections affect the gay community, while the other half is heterosexual," Espinel says. "If we don't address it also from [the heterosexual] point of view, most likely their perception of risk is going to be skewed. Risk behaviors for HIV infection are present in all people regardless of their sexual preference."

Espinel says he wants to know Utahns' knowledge of HIV and STDs, their perception of risk, whether they understand when they are at risk and correlate such understanding with individual sexual behavior, including drug use. The survey asks about how monogamous Utahns are, their participation in "one night stands" and Utahns' attitude about, and use of, condoms. Along with working with those already infected to prevent more infections, Espinel says the drive now is also "let's work with those at risk of getting infection" in the heterosexual community.%uFFFD

"If we feel we are not at risk, that's when we fall down," he says.

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