Gay and bi men (GBM) in Australia and South Africa appear to be heeding public health advice and having less casual sex with other men due to COVID-19 physical distancing measures.
According to a study by the University of New South Wales’s Kirby Institute, 95 per cent of 940 GBM surveyed recognised that sexual contact, particularly with casual partners and in group sex, was a risk during the pandemic.
There was a 12-fold decrease in the number of partners they were having sex with, with an 84 per cent reduction in sexual contacts occurring across all partner types outside of a committed relationship.
“The results from our study show that an overwhelming majority of gay and bisexual men have adapted their behaviour and are adhering to physical distancing guidelines in light of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Dr Mohamed A. Hammoud, who is the lead author on the paper.
“Gay and bisexual men have adjusted their prevention strategies throughout the HIV epidemic to protect themselves and each other. Our community has a long history of creating innovative strategies to reduce risk, and we are seeing this continue with this new health challenge.”
The study was funded to monitor how changes in sexual behaviour may predict fluctuations in HIV and STI diagnoses in the short term. It will also be able to do so during the period after its most significant impacts.
“Gay and bisexual men have dramatically reduced their sexual contacts in response to this global pandemic. As a consequence, it is also likely that we will see a reduction in new HIV and STI diagnoses in the short term,” said Associate Professor Garrett Prestage, who is the paper’s senior author.
The study results appear to be partly mirrored by an informal poll on MambaOnline. Twenty percent of our site visitors reported that they have “completely stopped hooking up for now” while 12% said they are “not hooking up as much as I used to.” Only 8% revealed that they are “still hooking up just like always.”
In South Africa, the ANC’s LGBTIQ+ Desk and health organisations like Engage Men’s Health – which provides sexual health services to men who have sex with men (MSM) – have called for LGBTIQ individuals and MSM to stop having casual sex during the lockdown to avoid the transmission of Covid-19.