GMFA surveyed over 9,000 gay and bisexual men and found a huge gap in knowledge of PrEP, PEP and what HIV-undetectable means.

In February of 2017, GMFA as part of the RISE Partnership - which includes NAZ, London Friend and The Race Equality Foundation - launched a tool called ‘How Risky am I?’. The idea for the tool is that gay and bisexual men complete a series of questions and then at the end receive a number which indicated their sexual health score. From there, gay and bisexual men receive information and advice on PrEP, PEP, HIV treatment, condoms and testing advice based on their needs.

Since February, over 9,000 gay and bisexual men have completed the survey, making this GMFA’s largest sexual health survey ever. To mark World AIDS Day 2017, GMFA and the RISE Partnership have released the results in a bid to show where the gay community is at with sexual health in 2017, while putting focus on the issues that need to be addressed.  

Here are some of the key findings:


Overall 19% of men who think they are HIV-negative have never had an HIV test.

  • 78% under the age of 17 have never had an HIV test.
  • 23% of 18 – 29 year olds have never had an HIV test.
  • 10% of 30 – 49 year olds have never had an HIV test.
  • 35% over the age of 60 have never had an HIV test.

22% did not know what ‘viral load’ means.  

23% did not know that people who are ‘HIV-undetectable’ can not pass on the virus.

25% did not know what PEP is.

Overall 24% did not know what PrEP is

  • 60% under the age of 17 did not know what PrEP is
  • 23% of 18 – 29 year olds did not know what PrEP is
  • 17% of 30 - 39 year olds did not know what PrEP is
  • 51% of 60+ years olds did not know what PrEP is

7% said they never use condoms for anal sex

74% said they never use condoms for oral sex, however 13% said they did not know HIV and STIs can be transmitted through oral sex


Ian Howley, Chief Executive of GMFA responded to these results: “It’s very clear from these results that there is still a major information gap about PrEP, PEP and what being HIV-undetectable means for men who are at the peak of their sexual activity. Many men under the age of 39 years old are lacking basic knowledge that could stop them from becoming HIV-positive.

Ian adds: “I also want to focus on the men who responded to this tool over the age 60. Many of these men would have gone through the AIDS epidemic. 774 men over the age of 60 completed the tool with 35% of these men having never had an HIV test, 51% didn’t know what PEP or PrEP is, and their knowledge about viral load is also quite poor with only 37% knowing what it means. We in the HIV sector must not forget that there is no cut off point when someone stops having sex. We can’t assume that just because they lived through the 80s and 90s older gay men don’t need sexual health education. We must reach out to older gay and bisexual men just like we do with younger gay men.

“And speaking of younger gay and bisexual men. 284 gay and bisexual men under the age of 17 completed this survey. Of which, 78% have never had an HIV test, 61% don’t know what viral load means, 54% don’t know what HIV-undetectable means, 59% don’t know what PEP is and 60% don’t know what PrEP is. I think it’s quite alarming that so many young men, many who may be already sexually active or about to become sexually active, have a lack of vital sexual heath knowledge. This shows a must of sex and relationship education for young people and this must include information for gay and bisexual teenagers.”

Ian continues: “However, when we first launched this tool our aim was to reach over 2,000 gay and bisexual men within a year. The fact that over 9,000 men have already completed this survey shows us the desire by gay and bisexual men of all ages to take control of their sexual health. And we are seeing this in action with new HIV diagnosis dropping by 29% in London alone in 2016 with an increase in gay and bisexual men using PrEP to protect themselves. 

“We must look at these results, see what information gay and bisexual men are lacking and discover how we can work to better educate our community about PrEP, PEP, and viral load/HIV-undetectable while working to increase HIV testing rates. Everyone deserves to have the best sex with the least amount of risk.”  

To take the survey and find out your sexual health score visit www.gmfa.org.uk/rise-partnership.

You can find all the results below with the break down in ages for the relevant sections. If you’d like to take to someone about this results, email us on [email protected].


HOW RISKY AM I? SURVEY RESULTS IN FULL 

Who responded:

How do you define your gender?

Male Female Other
98% 1%

1%


Is your gender the same as assigned to you at birth?

Yes No
99% 1%

What is your age?

15 and under: 1%
16-17: 2%
18-29: 35%
30-39: 25%
40-49: 16%
50-59: 13%
60-69: 6%
70+: 3%
Prefer not to say: 1%

What is your sexual orientation?

Gay man: 77%
Lesbian: 0.5%
Bisexual: 18%
Other: 0.5%
Heterosexual: 3%
Prefer not to say: 1%

What is your ethnicity?

White (any other background) 42%
White (British) 36%
Latin American - Spanish speaking:   6%
Asian / Asian British – Chinese: 3%
Asian / Asian British – Indian: 3%
Asian / Asian British - any other background: 2%
Mixed / Multiple - any other background:   1%
Black – African: 1%
Spanish: 1%
Black - Any other background: 1%
Arab: 1%
Other: 3%

What is your religion?

No Religion:   53%

Christian (including Church of England, Catholic, Protestant and all other Christian faiths)

33%
Prefer not to say:   4%
Other:    3%
Jewish:  2%
Hindu:   2%
Muslim:   1.5%
Buddhist: 1%
Sikh:    0.5% 


HIV status:

 

What is your HIV status?

HIV-negative:   78% 
I don't know: 15%
HIV-positive:   7% 


For those who responded as living with HIV
 

Which option best describes your current HIV treatment?

I'm on HIV treatment and my viral load is undetectable:   87%
I am not on any HIV treatment:  10%
I am currently taking HIV medication:   3% 

Viral load and being HIV-undetectable

 

We asked all ‘HIV-negative’ and ‘I don’t know’ men:

Viral Load is a measure of how much HIV there is in the blood of someone living with HIV. It is high when someone is first diagnosed but low when treatment is effective.

I already knew this: 78%
I didn't know this:     22% 


When we broke this down by age:

61% of 17 years old and under didn’t know what ‘Viral Load’ means.
28% of 18 – 29 year olds didn’t know what ‘Viral Load’ means.
15% of 30 – 39 year olds didn’t know what ‘Viral Load’ means.
15% of 40 – 49 year olds didn’t know what ‘Viral Load’ means.
21% of 50 – 59 year olds didn’t know what ‘Viral Load’ means.
27% of 60 – 69 year olds didn’t know what ‘Viral Load’ means.
43% of 70 years and older didn’t know what ‘Viral Load’ means.


Being 'HIV Undetectable' means the treatment is being effective. The level of HIV is too low to be detected and HIV cannot be passed on sexually.

I already knew this:   77%
I didn't know this: 23%


When we broke this down by age: 

54% of 17 years old and under didn’t know what ‘HIV Undetectable’ means.
24% of 18 – 29 year olds didn’t know what ‘HIV Undetectable’ means.
19% of 30 – 39 year olds didn’t know what ‘HIV Undetectable’ means.
19% of 40 – 49 year olds didn’t know what ‘HIV Undetectable’ means.
24% of 50 – 59 year olds didn’t know what ‘HIV Undetectable’ means.
31% of 60 – 69 year olds didn’t know what ‘HIV Undetectable’ means.
44% of 70 years and older didn’t know what ‘HIV Undetectable’ means.

 PEP and PrEP

 


We asked all ‘HIV-negative’ and ‘I don’t know’ the following:

PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) is a medicine someone can take up to 72 hours after they have had unprotected sex which may prevent them becoming HIV-positive. It is available from Sexual Health Clinics and hospital A&E departments.

I already knew this: 75%
I didn't know this: 25%


When we broke this down by age:

59% of 17 years old and under didn’t know what PEP is
26% of 18 – 29 year olds didn’t know what PEP is.
17% of 30 – 39 year olds didn’t know what PEP is.
19% of 40 – 49 year olds didn’t know what PEP is.
30% of 50 – 59 year olds didn’t know what PEP is.
41% of 60 – 69 year olds didn’t know what PEP is.
61% of 70 years and older didn’t know what PEP is.

PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a medicine someone can take regularly to prevent becoming HIV-positive.

I already knew this: 67%
I didn't know this: 24%
I am on PrEP: 9%


When we broke this down by age:

60% of 17 years old and under didn’t know what ‘PrEP’ is.
23% of 18 – 29 year olds didn’t know what ‘PrEP’ is.
17% of 30 – 39 year olds didn’t know what ‘PrEP’ is.
19% of 40 – 49 year olds didn’t know what ‘PrEP’ is
30% of 50 – 59 year olds didn’t know what ‘PrEP’ is.
43% of 60 – 69 year olds didn’t know what ‘PrEP’ is.
60% of 70 years and older didn’t know what ‘PrEP’ is.

Getting tested

 

Do you know where you can go to get tested for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)? 

Yes:  92%
No:  8% 


When was your last sexual health screen?

In the last 6 months:  42%
Never: 20%
In the last 12 months:   16%
2+ years ago:  12%
1-2 years ago: 10% 


For those who responded as HIV-negative or ‘I don’t know’.

 When was your last HIV test?

In the last 12 months: 57%
Never: 19%
2+ years ago:  13%
1-2 years ago: 11% 


When we break this down by age:

78% of 17 years old and under have never had an HIV test.
23% of 18 – 29 year olds have never had an HIV test.
10% of 30 – 39 year olds have never had an HIV test.
10% of 40 – 49 year olds have never had an HIV test.
16% of 50 – 59 year olds have never had an HIV test.
26% of 60 – 69 year olds have never had an HIV test.
32% of 70 years and older have never had an HIV test. 


Have you been vaccinated against Hepatitis B?

Yes:  69%
No:  20%
I didn't know I could be vaccinated: 11%

Do you ask people about their HIV status or when they last tested for STIs before you have sex (oral or anal) with them?

Sometimes:  29%
Always: 28%
Never:  17%
Rarely: 13%
I'm in a monogamous relationship: 13% 


Do you use a condom when you have anal sex?

Sometimes:  43%
Always: 26%
Never:  16%
Rarely: 8%
I'm in a monogamous relationship: 7% 

How many people have you had anal sex with - without using a condom - in the last 12 months?

None: 38%
1:  28%
2-4: 19%
5-10: 8%
11-30: 4%
30+: 3%

Do you use a condom for oral sex?

Never:  74%
No - I'm in a monogamous relationship: 13%
Rarely:  13%
Sometimes:  4%
Always:  2%

When we explained:

The risk of HIV from oral sex is much lower than fucking but is increased if you have any cuts, ulcers or sores.

Did you know that there is also the risk of all the following STIs when having unprotected oral sex? Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, Hepatitis A, B and C, Herpes, Syphilis and Genital Warts (HPV)

I already knew this:  88%
I didn't know this:  12%


In the last 12 months have you done any of the following:

Group sex

No: 70%
Yes: 30%

 

Fisting

No: 90%
Yes: 10%

 

Taking drugs while having sex

No: 85%
Yes: 15%

In the last 12 months have you done any of the following? (Injected drugs such as crystal meth, Meph, G/GBH/ Heroin)

No: 98%
Yes: 2%

If you’d like to take to someone about this results, email us on [email protected].

To take the survey and find out your sexual health score visit www.gmfa.org.uk/rise-partnership.