What is it about?
Suck it and See is a study that is trying to estimate the amount of HIV among gay and homosexually active men, and explore the reasons that some people have HIV and some people have HIV but do not realise they are infected.
Why is it important?
This study is important because it is the first in Australia to collect saliva samples in community settings to estimate the number of people with HIV in the gay community.
HIV diagnoses in Victoria have more than doubled between 1999 and 2006. However, because HIV testing patterns vary between people, we are unsure exactly how many people in total are HIV positive (HIV prevalence) in Victoria.
Estimation of HIV prevalence is an important tool to monitor the impact of interventions and inform public health programs, as well as being an important requirement for HIV modelling. Data from this study will be used to form local and nation HIV/AIDS health promotion and education strategies.
How did we do this?
Like the Melbourne Gay Community Periodic Survey, Suck it and See recruited gay and homosexually active men through clinics, bars, clubs, sex clubs and saunas throughout Melbourne using the same friendly recruiters. Those taking part in the study completed a short survey while holding a stick beside their gum to provide us with a saliva (oral fluid) sample.
The study was conducted at a number of gay venues including gay bars/clubs, gay sex-on-premises venues (SOPV) and gay men’s health clinics.
Why use a saliva sample?
A saliva test is a very simple but very reliable HIV test that can be used for research. The most important thing to understand is that as the test is not licensed in Australia for diagnosing an individual’s HIV status, we cannot give participants their result.
This means that although the test is good for research, it is not good for diagnosing an individual person’s HIV status.
Therefore, no HIV test results were provided back to participants.
If you want to find out where to get an HIV test in your area, you can call the HIV Connect line at 1800 038 125 or go to www.connectline.com.au/ for further testing information.
March 2008 – December 2008
Study completed in 2009
We conducted the ‘Suck it and See’ study in Melbourne in the middle of 2008, to see what percentage of gay men have HIV and to better understand the spread of HIV. The study was conducted at a number of gay venues including gay bars/clubs, gay sex-on-premises venues (SOPV) and gay men’s health clinics.
Participants were asked to self-complete a behavioural survey and provide a saliva sample (oral fluid specimen) for HIV testing.
- 745 men aged between 18-75 years participated.
A two page Summary of the Study Results and the Full Study Report are available below.
It is important to note that as with many research projects that involve community recruitment, this study may not provide a representative sample of all MSM in Victoria. Accordingly, we need to be cautious when making conclusions about this population based on study results.
That said, this is the first community-recruited study in Australia to collect biological specimens for HIV testing and provides a valuable snapshot of what is happening in the gay community in Melbourne, especially among the socially and sexually active gay men in Melbourne.
The study researchers would like to thank all participants and recruiters for their help and the study venues for supporting this project.
The full results of the study are currently being prepared for publication in scientific journals.
If you have any questions about the study or its results please email: [email protected]