Tuesday 27 September 2016

Survey reveals startling rate of unprotected intercourse among 'men who have sex with men'

Meadhbh McGrath

Published 10/06/2016 | 18:54

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

More than 70pc of men who have sex with men (MSM) have had unprotected sex, according to a new survey of the community in Ireland.

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Over 3,000 men participated in the online study, which was launched today by the HSE and the Gay Health Network at the annual Gay Health Forum in Dublin Castle.

It found that 55pc reported having unprotected intercourse within the last 12 months, and 47pc had done so within the last six months.

Some 61pc of respondents said they had sex with one or more non-steady male partners in the last year, and of that number, 42pc said it was unprotected sex.

The report found that HIV positive men, men with a lower level of education and men who were unemployed were more likely to have unprotected intercourse with a non-steady partner.

Of those surveyed, almost 40pc had never been tested for HIV. The report noted that men living outside Dublin, who had low levels of education and who did not identify as gay or were not ‘out’ were least likely to have received a test.

One third of men were unsure about their HIV status, but the majority (29pc) thought it was probably negative.

Some 83pc of men aged 18-19 years had never had a test for any sexually transmitted infection (STI).

"Men who have sex with men are at a higher risk for HIV and STIs in Ireland, accounting for approximately half of all new diagnoses of HIV annually," Dr Fiona Lyons said of the findings.

"It is really important to have up-to-date and accurate information in order to effectively meet the particular HIV and STI prevention needs of MSM."

The survey found high levels of alcohol, tobacco and recreational drug use among MSM, with 58pc saying they binge drink on a typical drinking occasion and 44pc saying they did so every week.

Some 36pc of men reported using recreational drugs such as cannabis, ecstasy and cocaine in the last year, particularly men aged 20-24 years old and HIV positive men.

A further 7pc had used drugs which are commonly associated with “chemsex”, the practice of using drugs to facilitate or enhance sex that can last several days without sleep or food.

Such drugs – typically methamphetamine (crystal meth), mephedrone and GHB – are linked to extreme sexual disinhibition.

The report also revealed some insights into modern MSM sexual behaviour, including that 62pc of men had met their most recent sexual partner on a smartphone app or website – the most common means of meeting partners across all age groups.

Among younger men, social venues were also popular meeting spots, while older men were more likely to visit sex-focused venues, particularly those aged over 60 years.

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