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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Researchers say they have identified a group of men who are more susceptible to contracting and spreading the HIV infection but may be underestimating their risk.

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Researchers at the University of Edinburgh say the men involved are a distinct group who have sex with other men, but are not open about their sexuality.

The study focused on a national archive of anonymous data to study patterns of HIV transmission. Researchers analyzed the genetic code of virus samples from more than 60,000 HIV-positive people in the UK.

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According to researchers, the subset of men are less likely to receive prevention messages and access the same healthcare as others, including openly gay men, and as a result may be less aware of their HIV risk.

“Nondisclosed men who have sex with men are more likely to be infected by each other than by openly gay men, and less likely to be aware of their risk. The finding shows that public health messages should be targeted specifically at this neglected group. It also shows that large-scale studies of health data can be carried out without risk to individual privacy,” said Professor Andrew Leigh Brown, of the School of Biological Sciences.

HIV attacks the body’s immune system and, left untreated, makes it difficult to fight infections.

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Early diagnosis and access to effective treatments allow a near normal and healthy life and prevents onward transmission.