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Sexual behaviour, STI and HIV testing and testing need among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men recruited for online surveys pre/post-COVID-19 restrictions in the UK

Brown, Jack Rg; Reid, David; Howarth, Alison R; Mohammed, Hamish; Saunders, John; Pulford, Caisey V; Ogaz, Dana; ... Mercer, Catherine H; + view all (2023) Sexual behaviour, STI and HIV testing and testing need among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men recruited for online surveys pre/post-COVID-19 restrictions in the UK. Sexually Transmitted infections 10.1136/sextrans-2022-055689. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

OBJECTIVES: We examined sexual behaviour, sexually transmitted infection (STI) and HIV testing and testing need, and identified associated factors, among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM) in the UK after COVID-19 restrictions ended, and compared these with 'pre-pandemic' estimates. METHODS: We analysed survey data from GBMSM (N=1039) recruited via social media and Grindr in November-December 2021. We then compared Grindr-recruited 2021 participants (N=437) with those from an equivalent survey fielded in March-May 2017 (N=1902). Questions on sexual behaviour and service use had lookback periods of 3-4 months in both surveys. Unmet testing need was defined as reporting any new male and/or multiple condomless anal sex (CAS) partners without recent STI/HIV testing. Participants were UK residents, GBMSM, aged ≥16 years who reported sex with men in the last year. Multivariable logistic regression identified associated sociodemographic and health-related factors with unmet STI/HIV testing need in 2021, and then for 2017/2021 comparative analyses, adjusting for demographic differences. RESULTS: In 2021, unmet STI and HIV testing need were greater among older GBMSM (aged ≥45 years vs 16-29 years; adjusted OR (aOR): 1.45 and aOR: 1.77, respectively), and lower for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) users (vs non-PrEP users; aOR: 0.32 and aOR: 0.23, respectively). Less unmet STI testing need was observed among HIV-positive participants (vs HIV-negative/unknown; aOR: 0.63), and trans and non-binary participants (vs cisgender male; aOR: 0.34). Between 2017 (reference) and 2021, reported sexual risk behaviours increased: ≥1 recent new male sex partner (72.1%-81.1%, aOR: 1.71) and ≥2 recent CAS partners (30.2%-48.5%, aOR: 2.22). Reporting recent STI testing was greater in 2021 (37.5%-42.6%, aOR: 1.34) but not recent HIV testing, and there was no significant change over time in unmet STI (39.2% vs 43.7%) and HIV (32.9% vs 39.0%) testing need. DISCUSSION: Comparable community surveys suggest that UK resident GBMSM may have engaged in more sexual risk behaviours in late 2021 than pre-pandemic. While there was no evidence of reduced STI/HIV service access during this time, there remained considerable unmet STI/HIV testing need.

Type: Article
Title: Sexual behaviour, STI and HIV testing and testing need among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men recruited for online surveys pre/post-COVID-19 restrictions in the UK
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1136/sextrans-2022-055689
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/sextrans-2022-055689
Language: English
Additional information: © 2023 BMJ Publishing Group Ltd. This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute for Global Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute for Global Health > Infection and Population Health
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10166036
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