Tag Archives: MSM

Three things you think you know about gay men and HIV


Critics of PrEP, the daily pill that stops people getting HIV, say that gay men just need to change their behaviour, not take a preventative medicine. Here is why that alone is not the answer

When the Pill was introduced, there was an immediate backlash, as people felt it would encourage promiscuity. We managed to overcome that stigma, and over 50 years later we are on the cusp of something similarly revolutionary in regards to HIV.

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PrEP, a daily pill that stops people getting HIV, could soon be provided on the NHS. For gay men, the demographic most at risk, there is the very real possibility that they too will be able to have sex without life-changing consequences.

Yet like the Pill, PrEP is not without its critics – we are seeing many of the same arguments, often made by heterosexuals with a low HIV risk, being rolled out to deny gay men PrEP.

It’s important to remember that it’s not just gay men who get HIV, but often the main arguments against it are based on judgements about their behaviour.

1. “Just stop sleeping around”

Shaming anyone’s sex life isn’t an effective way to prevent HIV and whilst it stands to reason that the less people you sleep with the less chance you have of getting HIV. It’s not that simple.

For gay men the odds are stacked against them from the off. One in 20 gay men in the UK has HIV. This compares to 1 in 1,000 straight people.

If you are a sexually active gay man, you have a high chance of sleeping with someone with HIV.  If he is one of the 14 per cent of gay and bisexual men who aren’t aware that they have HIV, there is a real risk you will acquire it from them.

People who have diagnosed HIV and are on effective treatment areessentially non-infectious.

2. “Use condoms”

People say that giving gay men PrEP will mean they are less likely to use condoms. The UK-based PROUD PrEP trial, which was designed to understand how PrEP would be used in the real world,showed that this wasn’t the case.

Condoms used perfectly are 98 per cent effective, but this isn’t a realistic scenario. They can break or come off – this brings overall effectiveness to 85 per cent. This is without factoring in the times people are just too drunk or turned-on and decide to chance it.

Let’s face it: people do make bad decisions in the heat of the moment.

Clearly condoms have been, and will continue to be, vital to the fight against HIV.  Scientists have concluded that if gay men had given up on condom use entirely between the years 2000 – 2010, we would have had 400 per cent more new infections.  With around 2,500 gay and bisexual men acquiring HIV a year though, condoms have clearly not managed to crush the epidemic single-handedly.

3. “Just pick a partner and stick with them”    

In reality, more men get HIV from their boyfriend or regular partner than from casual sex – promoting monogamy isn’t a catch all solution.

Clearly, what we have been doing hasn’t stopped HIV or even slowed it down amongst gay men (each year a record number get diagnosed with HIV).

But we have something that works – PrEP.

PrEP is at least as effective as condoms in preventing transmission. In the three major studies on PrEP, there were no instances of someone who was taking PrEP, in the correct manner, acquiring HIV.

By all means if condoms work for you, keep doing what you’re doing – but if that was enough, we would have stopped HIV in its tracks a long time ago.

We need to keep the options open for everyone, and level the playing field for populations facing an unfair burden of HIV, meaning they can have the privileges that so many of us take for granted – the chance to have sex without fear.


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Video Games, Social Networks May Help Prevent HIV


Digital outreach efforts delivered via text messages, interactive games, chat rooms, and social networks may be an effective way to prevent the spread of HIV, according to a recent study.

Researchers from Columbia University Medical Center found that eHealth interventions are associated with reductions in risky sexual behaviors and increases in HIV testing among men who have sex with men.

Despite decades of outreach and education efforts that have stabilized human immunodeficiency (HIV) infection rates in the United States, the pace of new infections among men who have sex with men has been steadily increasing, particularly among young adults and racial and ethnic minorities.

“This is a population that is very used to technology, and there is built-in privacy and immediacy with digital communication that may be especially appealing to men who aren’t comfortable disclosing their sexual orientation or their HIV status in a face-to-face encounter,” said Rebecca Schnall, lead author of the study and an assistant professor at Columbia Nursing. “If we want to reduce HIV infection rates, particularly among younger men, we need to explore the use of technology to meet them where they live – online and on their phones.”

For the study, researchers conducted a systematic literature review to determine the effectiveness of eHealth interventions for HIV prevention among men who have sex with men. Included studies had to be focused exclusively on eHealth, limited to HIV prevention and testing rather than treatment, targeted only to adult men who have sex with men, written in English, designed as experimental or randomized controlled trials, and published between January 2000 and April.

Researchers found that one interactive website, Sexpulse, designed by health professionals and computer scientists to target men who seek sexual partners online, successfully reduced high-risk sexual behaviors. Another site, Keep It Up! (KIU), used video games to help reduce rates of unprotected anal sex. A third initiative, a downloadable video game, helped mitigate shame felt by some young men who have sex with men, though the reduction in risky sexual behavior wasn’t statistically significant.

Researchers found that Chat rooms may also help prevent HIV. When a sexual health expert entered a popular chat room to regularly post information about HIV testing and respond to instant messages seeking information on HIV, self-reported HIV testing among participants in the chat room significantly increased.

“Taken together, the findings from all of these relatively small studies demonstrate the enormous potential of eHealth as a tool to prevent HIV,” Schnall said. “What we now have is a road map to follow for larger, longer trials that may definitely confirm the effectiveness of eHealth in fighting the spread of HIV.”

Post via University Herald

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New MSM Panel report from Sigma Research

This month Sigma Research have undertaken the ninth monthly survey in the Sigma Panel of gay men, bisexual men and other men that have sex with men (MSM) in England and released the fifth Insight BLAST – their fast feedback mechanism to get essential planning data into the public domain.

Insight Blasts have a short turnaround for analysis and output to health
promoters developing and delivering sexual health interventions with, or for
men who have sex with men. The fifth Insight Blast is about “STI screening before your next sexual partner”. It describes how recently MSM have had an asymptomatic STI screen, why they had their last STI screen, and the perceived costs and benefits of screening for STIs when you have no symptoms. The data was collected as part of the eighth Sigma Panel questionnaire in August 2011.

This new Insight Blast and the first four – addressing “HIV testing”: “The
next sexual partner”; “Alternatives to unprotected anal intercourse”; and
“Notifying former sex partners about STI diagnoses” – are all available via
their homepage or at http://www.sigmapanel.org.uk

At http://www.sigmaresearch.org.uk you will also find a
link to the second EMIS Community Report.

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