Researchers seek ‘hidden’ cohort of men having sex with other men

In 2010 survey, 9% of men who had sex with men identified as neither gay nor bisexual

Men who have had sexual contact with other men but who do not identify as being gay or bisexual are being urged to participate in an international survey.

Previous research found 9 per cent of Irish men who had been sexually active with other men claimed to be neither gay nor bisexual.

The Gay Health Network (GHN) said this figure was probably an underestimation and it has urged men who had have sex with men to come forward and complete a pan-European survey.

The European MSM Internet Survey (EMIS) is carried out every seven years and involves 28 countries.

The previous one, in 2010, was filled out by 3,090 men in Ireland. It found 79 per cent of respondents identified themselves as gay only, a further 13 per cent as bisexual and 9 per cent identified themselves as neither gay or bisexual.

Missed

A GHN spokesman said the 9 per cent figure was lower than in comparable Western countries and that cohort may be missed.

He said it was relatively easy to reach men who were gay or bisexual, but not men who identify as neither.

“This figure has shown us that there is probably a whole cohort of people who don’t want to do this survey because they don’t want to admit that they want to have sex with men,” he said.

“They don’t have a definition and they don’t have a name. They consider themselves to be heterosexual men who have sex with men occasionally. They don’t even consider themselves bisexual. Why that is is for researchers to go with it and find that out.”

Groups working with gay men say the survey is important in formulating social policy.

They say it contributes to the planning, promotion and increased access to HIV and sexually transmitted disease testing, free condoms and to the greater understanding of the psychological needs of men living with HIV.

The HSE's Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) is also calling for more men who have sex with men living in Ireland to complete the survey at emis2017.eu. It is available until January 31st online.

HPSC researcher Dr Derval Igoe said the survey results will "provide vital information for the GHN, HSE and other organisations to help plan services and campaigns in Ireland. It will also greatly contribute to the knowledge of MSM sexual health needs across Europe. "