Gay Men’s Sex Survey: the results
Posted by pozlife on April 21, 2007
Although 85% of gay men who have visited a GUM clinic in the last year have been offered an HIV test, the proportion of gay men who have actually taken one has remained unchanged in the last nine years, according to the latest Gay Men’s Sex Survey (GMSS).
Consuming Passions, the ninth such survey by Sigma Research, interviewed 16,426 gay men online and via a booklet questionnaire during 2005 to determine their HIV testing and risk behaviour, use of drugs and other aspects that have a bearing on the HIV epidemic and the lives of gay men in the UK today.
The most remarkable finding is probably that despite continued HIV prevention programmes and the advent of effective combination therapy, just as many men remain untested for HIV as did in the first GMSS in 1997.
The proportion of gay men who report never having had an HIV test was 43.3% last year, and has never varied between 41% and 46% in any Gay Men’s Sex Survey.
This may be because a similar proportion of gay men, 38%, told the last GMSS that they had never visited a GUM clinic. One of the most worrying findings of Consuming Passions GMSS was that this was the case regardless of the number of sexual partners men had had; 40.3% of men who’d had more than 30 partners still had never been for an STD checkup.
The importance of GUM clinic use is underlined by the fact that over three-quarters of people who’d never tested for HIV had also never visited a clinic, compared with only 8.6% who knew they were negative.
This may explain the contradiction that the same proportion of men remains untested for HIV despite the fact that, amongst men who actually have attended a clinic, the proportion who said they’d been offered an HIV test at their last visit had increased, from under 60% five years ago to nearly 80% today.
Although Sigma Research concludes that HIV campaigns concentrate on men who have unprotected sex with men whose HIV status they don’t know, the findings also suggest that despite some opposition, the idea of doing more HIV tests, of more types, in more places might also need reconsideration.
As for unprotected sex, as already reported on Gay.com, 31% of guys whose last HIV test was negative told the GMSS that they had had unprotected anal sex with someone whose HIV status they did not know. Nineteen per cent of them had been exclusively or sometimes bottom, and therefore at the highest risk of catching HIV.
Three point five per cent of HIV negative guys had had unprotected sex with someone they knew to have HIV; of these, half (1.6%) were sometimes or exclusively bottom.
The corresponding figures with positive guys were that 42% had had unprotected anal sex with someone whose HIV status they did not know, and that 29% of them had been exclusively or sometimes top, and therefore at the highest risk of transmitting HIV.
Twenty-one per cent of HIV positive guys had unprotected sex with someone who said their last test was negative, and 11% were sometimes or exclusively top.
Drugs have often been blamed for the taking of sexual risks by gay men, but the GMSS, which asked a number of questions about drug use, found that the use of ‘party drugs’ associated with risky sex was – apart from poppers – relatively uncommon.
Ecstasy and coke had been used by 18% and 17% of gay men at least once last year, as had Viagra and similar erection drugs, but only one in 10 had used Viagra etc., more than once a month, one in 13 ecstasy, and only one in 18 cocaine. This compares with 92% of respondents who’d drunk alcohol, with two out of three boozing more than once a week.
Cannabis occupied intermediate territory, with 28% reporting some use during the year and 7% more than weekly use. Poppers were slightly more popular with 30% using them during the year and 12% at least weekly.
Oh, and just over a third (34.5%) of respondents smoked cigarettes, with 23% smoking more than 10 a day and over two thirds (68%) agreeing that they’d like to give up.
And the least popular drugs? Well, only 1% had used heroin or crack over the year, but apart from that the least popular drugs were LSD, with 2.8% (one in 36) ever using it over the last year…and that scourge of the gay scene, crystal meth. Only 0.8% of gay men had used crystal more than once a month and only 0.3% (29 men) weekly.
“While Crystal may have particularly spectacular addictive qualities, it remains hard to see why it occupies such a large part of the current drugs debate, except by reference to faddishness and the tendency to generate moral panic among both the HIV sector and the media.”