Epidemiological and clinical characteristics and behaviours of individuals with newly diagnosed HIV infection: a multicentre study in North Italy


ntroduction. We aimed to investigate socio-demographic, clini- cal and epidemiological characteristics and behaviours of sub- jects with new HIV diagnosis. Methods. We carried out a multi-centre cross-sectional study com- prising 17 Infectious Diseases Units in the Lombardy Region, North Italy. All subjects with a first positive test for HIV infection examined in 2008-09 were interviewed using a structured questionnaire. Results. 472 patients were enrolled (mean age 39.8 years, stand- ard deviation [SD] 11.5), mostly males (78%), and born in Italy (77%). The most common routes of HIV transmission were het- erosexual intercourse (49%) and sex among men who have sex with men (MSM) (40%). Never/sometimes use of a condom with occasional partners was associated with male gender, hetero- sexual transmission route, and with > 10 sexual partners in their lifetime. 47% had previous HIV negative tests. Having had more than 2 previous HIV negative tests was associated with younger age, MSM transmission route, CD4 + lymphocyte count ? 350/?l and self-perception of risk. Discussion. This study shows that there is a large portion of the adult population, especially heterosexual men aged 45 years and over, who are at high risk of acquiring and transmitting HIV infection and undergoing the HIV diagnostic test late, due to risk behaviours combined with a low perception of being at risk. Com- pared to people infected by heterosexual contacts, MSM show a greater awareness of being at risk of infection, but this knowledge has a low impact in reducing at-risk behaviours.