GAYS in one of Britain's main hotspots for HIV-transmission are still practising widespread unsafe sex, according to the largest survey conducted of the homosexual community.
Project Zorro, a survey of the sexual lifestyle of gay men comes at a time when Brighton's HIV infection rate has increased at 12 times the national average.
Gay activists claim that anti-HIV spending has often not been clearly targeted at gay men, despite the fact that most infections involve them. In Brighton, the figure is 90 per cent. Zorro researchers, whose report was largely funded by the local gay business community, collated evidence from 1,200 gay and bisexual men in the town, producing unequivocal evidence that widespread knowledge of safe sex practices was not matched by actual sexual habits. An estimated one in three sexual acts was unsafe. A quarter of gay men surveyed did not know or ask about the HIV status of their sexual partners; at least three-quarters, including a significant slice of these in long-term relationships, indulged in casual sex with "trade"; many thought HIV infection levels were static or even falling; the use of Aids helplines was minimal; and gay men tended to avoid using clinics for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). James Ledward, a Project Zorro organiser, described Zorro's key findings as "deeply disturbing". "What the research shows very strongly is that gay men do not associate themselves with HIV. We're paying the price for everybody thinking it was sussed down here. But it isn't." The only HIV prevention measure that received a qualified thumbs- up was the health authority's annual distribution of tens of thousands of condoms. …