Survey finds high rates of unprotected sex among gay men

‘Nearly 40%’ of men who have sex with men have never tested for HIV or other STIs

Some 61 per cent of those surveyed had sex with one or more non-steady partner in the last year, and 40 per cent of these had intercourse without a condom. Photograph: Pederk/E+/Getty

Some 61 per cent of those surveyed had sex with one or more non-steady partner in the last year, and 40 per cent of these had intercourse without a condom. Photograph: Pederk/E+/Getty

 

Almost 40 per cent of men who have sex with men (MSM) have never tested for HIV or sexually transmitted infections, according to a survey of the community.

Those least likely to have ever had a HIV test were young, living outside Dublin, did not identify as gay, were out to few or no one or had low levels of education, the survey found.

Of those who were tested in the last year, 21 per cent were newly diagnosed with an STI and 8 per cent reported that they were HIV positive.

Most than 3,000 MSM participated in the internet survey which was launched today by the HSE and the Gay Health Network at an annual Gay Health Forum in Dublin Castle.

Ninety per cent of men reported having sex with another man in the previous year and 14 per cent with a woman. Of this group, 31 per cent said they had sex with more than one partner.

Some 61 per cent had sex with one or more non-steady partner in the last year, and 40 per cent of these had unprotected anal intercourse, ie, without a condom.

Almost two-thirds of MSM met their most recent male partner using a smartphone app or website.

Of the men surveyed, 75 per cent were attracted only to men and 25 per cent to both men and women. The majority of men (79 per cent) described themselves as gay, 13 per cent as bisexual, 2 per cent as straight or heterosexual and 5 per cent as “other”.

Two-thirds were out to all or more than half of the people who knew them while 25 per cent were out to less than half or few people and a further 9 per cent were out to no one.

Overall, 53 per cent were single, 39 per cent were in a steady relationship with a man and 8 per cent were in a steady relationship with a woman.

Dr Derval Igoe, public health medicine specialist with the Health Protection Surveillance Centre said the survey showed young MSM in particular have less knowledge about HIV and STIs, lack confidence in accessing testing and are less likely to have been tested for HIV.

“They also report a lack of access to condoms and HIV PEP and are more likely to binge drink and use recreational drugs. This type of information will help us to develop a more informed response to the sexual health needs of MSM.”

There has been a significant increase in the number of new HIV and STI diagnosis in the past two years, she pointed out.