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Almost 40% of gay men say they have unprotected sex more often than not

By Will Stroude

The latest issue of FS is taking a look at the sexual health of gay and bi men across the UK – with a survey revealing states about safer sex practices that may come as a surprise.

The survey, which asked 1,500 men questions about their sex lives, found that, for 39% of respondents, unsafe sex was practiced more often than sex with condoms in the past year.

25% said that they had unprotected sex “some of the time”, while only 35% said they hadn’t had any unprotected sex at all, or in the last year.

This comes as the debate around PrEP spills into the mainstream, with accusations of homophobia being leveled at the Daily Mail and NHS England for describing PrEP in ways that many have deemed divisive.

Speaking about the findings, GMFA CEO Mathew Hodson said: “Condom use has slipped back a little since the early days of HIV, partly because HIV is no longer a death sentence, and partly because we’re not seeing the same investment in sexual health that we saw a decade ago.

“With resources deployed to promote condoms and sexual health, encourage testing, challenge stigma, ensure that all gay men are well educated about HIV prevention and PrEP provided, we could end HIV within a generation.”

The issue of ineffective sexual health services came up on the survey, with half of respondents believing that current HIV campaigns don’t speak to them, with many believing that sexual health messaging needed to empower gay and bi men to remain negative, as well are more needing to be done to improve self-esteem within the community.

Ian Howley, who is taking over from Mathew as interim CEO of GMFA contextualised the findings, saying that “many of these men are in long term relationships, or are married/civil partnered or said they were in a monogamous relationship.”

“When you look at these stats, it’s only a small percentage of gay men, who are having lots of unprotected anal sex, who are at a high level of risk.”

With the prevalence of unprotected sex on the rise, Ian believes it’s time to rethink prevention strategies.

“HIV prevention is about so much more than telling someone to wear a condom, to test, to take PrEP. It’s also about self-esteem, self worth, mental health and empowerment. If you don’t care about yourself, why would you care about remaining HIV-negative?”

Read FS Mag Issue #155 in full Issue #155 in full here.