Were you having casual sex while on lockdown? If so, you wouldn’t be the only one. It seems a quarter of gay men in the UK were doing the same.
A recent survey conducted by the University of Westminster, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and others has data about this very topic. The researchers gathered survey participants from the UK through the gay hookup app Grindr, social media, already established networks tied to the researchers, and community organizations. Out of the participant pool, 85% of respondents were white with a mean age of 36. In addition, 12% of participants were diagnosed with HIV.
Once they had their sample pool, the researchers asked their participants a series of questions. According to the AIDS Map, this series of questions included how long participants could refrain from having casual sex because of the coronavirus. The survey’s results then amounted to 57% of respondents saying they could only last up to six months. 30% said they’d wait for three months. Then 10% shared they could only hold it in for four weeks.
But those weren’t the only results in the survey. UK men were then asked if they’d already had casual sex while in lockdown. 24% of participants answered yes. For half of those men, it had only been with one partner, but for 5% it was with more than five casual partners.
But what about protective measures during sex? Well, 30% of participants said they were taking PrEP before the coronavirus pandemic led to lockdowns. That then led to two-thirds of the PrEP patients breaking their regular usage. The most common reason for this interruption was that men weren’t having sex.
And what about testing? Twelve percent of participants said they’d accessed STI testing since social distancing started. But when it came to coronavirus testing, getting access was much harder. While 14% of survey respondents expressed worries of being infected during lockdown, only 2 percent of respondents were able to get tested. These results show that UK sexual health services will be in increasing demand within the next few weeks.
“As social restrictions ease, it is highly likely that increasing numbers of men who have sex with men will re-initiate sexual activity with casual partners,” Dr Charlie Witzel of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine commented. “Our research shows we’re nearing the time-point when many felt their ability to abstain would decrease. Criminalisation of sex, while being unenforceable practically, may also prevent people from accessing sexual health care during the pandemic.”
“The data indicates that, during the first six-weeks of lockdown, access to PrEP was an issue for only a minority of current PrEP users,” commented Dr Will Nutland of PrEPster. “It might be argued that this would increasingly be a concern as lockdown continues and as individuals’ supplies of PrEP were used up. However, the gradual re-opening of sexual health services and PrEP services into June, and the lifting of delays of online deliveries of PrEP from overseas, mean that PrEP access might not be the major problem that was originally voiced.”
Source: AIDS Map,