Sexual Health Vol. 8; No. 3: P. 349-354 (08..11) - Tuesday,
Recent increases in HIV notifications have been seen among men
who have sex with men in Victoria. Early diagnosis as an HIV
prevention strategy requires that general practitioners (GPs)
recognize at-risk individuals and perform screening, the
authors wrote, and taking a sexual history is a part of this
process. To investigate attitudes and practices about sexual
history taking and HIV screening in MSM, the team conducted a
cross-sectional survey of 354 GPs in Victoria.
Among respondents, 185 GPs (53 percent, 95 percent confidence
interval: 47 percent-58 percent) said they were "very likely"
to take a sexual history from MSM who presented for a routine
check-up, although 161 (46 percent, 95 percent CI: 40 percent-
51 percent) said they would not do so during the initial
The GPs cited barriers to sexual history taking that included
time constraints (28 percent, 95 percent CI: 24 percent-36
percent); feeling inadequately trained (25 percent, 95 percent
CI: 21 percent-30 percent); discomfort discussing sex (24
percent, 95 percent CI: 20 percent-29 percent); and fear of
embarrassing the patient (24 percent, 95 percent CI: 20
percent-29 percent). Factors that were associated with a
reduced likelihood of taking a sexual history included being
male, time constraints, fear of patient embarrassment, and
moral or religious views.
Sixty-three percent of the GPs (95 percent CI: 58 percent-68
percent) said they would offer HIV testing 3-6 monthly for MSM
with casual partners. Sixteen percent of the GPs (95 percent
CI: 12 percent-20 percent) (n=54) said they would offer
screening on request only.
"Being unlikely to take a sexual history and fear of patient
embarrassment were associated with a decreased likelihood of
offering an HIV test," the authors found. "GPs often fail to
take a sexual history from MSM, limiting opportunities to
offer HIV screening. Strategies are required to increase GPs'
awareness of sexual health as a priority for MSM."