Introduction Ending HIV (EH) is the first large scale campaign to embody the NSW HIV Strategy, leveraging the treatment as prevention approach (TasP) in order to mobilise gay men to end HIV transmission by 2020.
Since the inception of the campaign, ACON has been monitoring gay men’s knowledge and attitudes on HIV prevention in the context of TasP. One of the objectives was to assess whether condom use could be affected by an increased awareness about TasP.
Methods Across five online evaluation surveys run by an independent consultant after each phase of the EH campaign, responses of gay men to seven statements have been tracked over two years. These statements covered testing and treatment and one was specific about the importance of condoms: ‘Condoms continue to be the most effective way of preventing HIV transmission.’
Each online evaluation recruited more than 500 gay men living in NSW. All samples were consistent across the four surveys in terms of age groups, HIV status and locations.
Results While all respondents demonstrate significant positive shifts in knowledge, intent and attitudes towards testing and treatment, an overwhelmingly majority of survey respondents (across all ages, HIV statuses and locations) continue to strongly agree or agree that condoms remain the most effective way of preventing HIV transmission.
This is confirmed by the 2014 Sydney Gay Community Periodic Survey, which shows that the rate of unprotected anal intercourse has been relatively stable between 2010 and 2014.
Conclusion TasP has been widely discussed among HIV scientists, clinicians and the community sectors for several years. Many have expressed their concern that promoting TasP could jeopardise condom use. The EH campaign evaluation over two years demonstrates that TasP and condom reinforcement can go together, even if gay men now understand the preventative benefits of treatment.