More than half of bisexual and gay men in the UK are not using condoms during sexual intercourse.
A new study conducted by Gay Men Fight Aids (GMFA), found that 65 percent of men having sex with men (MSM) didn’t use a condom while having sex.
The study involved 500 MSMs in the UK. More than a quarter of the men surveyed did not consider themselves to be leading a risky sexual life even though they were having unprotected sex with HIV positive partners. 27% of the men said they did not think much about the risk they were putting themselves at.
Men in committed relationships or married to other men did not feel that it was dangerous to skip the use of condoms when having sex with their partners.
The researchers observed that MSMs measure risk differently. To some only HIV is a risk while others are afraid of all STDs. Others are more concerned about how well accepted by other men, whether they are sexy or interesting enough and not at all concerned about their health.
HIV PrEP Altering Risky Sex Perception
The introduction of HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) a drug that prevents HIV transmission has offered men more HIV protection choices besides the condom. It is now possible for HIV negative men who are on PrEP to have unprotected sex with HIV positive men with an undetectable viral load without fear of getting infected.
PrEP is a pill taken once daily and if used correctly it can reduce the risk of contracting HIV by almost 99%.
As more men adopt the use of PrEP the more they continue to drop the use of condoms during sex. PrEP makes them feel safe and therefore, they no longer perceive unprotected sex as a risky behaviour.
Men who are on PrEP are now not scared to have sex with men they are aware of being HIV positive as long as the infected person is on antiretroviral therapy (ART) and their viral loads are undetectable because there is low risk of getting infected.
While this is true because PrEP does protect people against HIV, it does not protect them against other STIs meaning that the MSMs are still at risk of getting sick if they don’t use condoms.
There is a high likelihood of a HIV positive person to be infected with other STIs due to their low immunity. Not using a condom is therefore, still a huge risk even when using PrEP.
Dating Apps Encouraging Hookup Culture
Dating apps such as Grindr have also been connected to increased high risk hookups among MSMs. Dating apps facilitate anonymous hookups and people are not obliged to discuss their sexual health before having sex.
The possibility to hookup with other men anonymously has increased the hookup culture among MSMs and can be blamed for the reducing condom use among this group. This has increased the risk of getting STDs.
This has introduced a new problem where more MSMs are hooking up and getting involved in high risk sexual behavior and more of them are getting infected with STDs.
So even though new HIV infection rates among MSMs are going down, the number of new STD infection rates are increasing at an alarming rate. There is therefore, still a huge need to sensitize the use of condoms even when on PrEP.