Experiences of HIV: The Seroconversion Study Final Report 2007–2015

The Seroconversion Study has existed in several forms since 1992. This most recent version completed data collection in 2015. Seroconversion studies have played an important role in the Australian HIV response and are a useful research tool in understanding the current circumstances of HIV infection. This version of the Seroconversion Study occurred at a time of rapid and fundamental changes in our understandings, and implementation, of HIV treatment and prevention. As with previous versions of the study, it mainly targeted gay and bisexual men (GBM). However, some limited data were collected from women and heterosexual men in this current version.

Key findings
  • Online technologies provided an effective method to overcome barriers to participation in a seroconverter study. We were able to recruit at least twice as many participants per year to this version of the study than had been achieved in any of the previous versions. Among homosexually active men, this represented approximately 10% of annual diagnoses.
  • There are multiple reasons why men avoid or delay testing in the months or years prior to their diagnosis, including the belief that they had not done anything ‘risky’, and fear of being told they were HIV-positive. Men who were less socially connected to other gay men were more likely to have avoided or delayed testing prior to their diagnosis.
  • On reflection, most men were satisfied with how they were tested and how they received their positive diagnosis. Those who indicated they would have preferred something else tended to prefer various options, supporting the argument that a range of testing options are needed to suit individual needs.
  • Knowledge of post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) at the time of their HIV infection was surprisingly low among these recently diagnosed individuals.
  • Few HIV infections among gay men are attributable to sex with their primary regular male partner (or ‘boyfriend’). HIV is far more likely to be transmitted via sex with a casual partner or a ‘fuckbuddy’. Indeed, HIV infection is most likely to occur in the context of sex with a new partner, with whom they have had no prior sexual contact.