In many industrialized countries, HIV has become a manageable chronic disease instead of a death sentence, thanks to the widespread availability of antiretroviral therapy (ART). However, some physicians and public health advocates have become concerned that if people no longer perceive HIV to be a serious threat, they may be less careful and engage in high-risk behaviors. This issue is sometimes referred to as “HIV treatment optimism.”
Now that access to treatment is improving in Africa, health advocates and researchers are concerned that HIV treatment optimism may become a problem in Africa as well. Researchers supported by the Population Dynamics Branch measured HIV treatment optimism and its predictors in a representative sample of more than 1,700 young adults in Malawi.
The scientists found low levels of HIV treatment optimism overall. The researchers indicated that this low optimism may reflect the relatively recent availability of ART, complications in accessing ART treatment, or perhaps both. The study showed that HIV treatment optimism was positively associated with risky sexual behavior among men, but not among women (PMID: 23227888).