A recent survey of gay and bi men revealed that roughly two-thirds of participants (65%) did not use condoms the last time that they had anal sex.
The survey, collected by the Gay Men Fight Aids (GMFA) charity, examined the sexual practices of men who have sex with men (MSM), reports Queerty.
GMFA surveyed 500 gay and bisexual men about their sex lives and how risky they perceived them to be.
Although 65% indicated that they did not use a condom for the last time they had anal sex, only 27% of survey respondents considered their sex lives “risky”.
We all measure risk differently. Some only associate risk with HIV
56 Dean Street’s David Stuart gives one possible explanation for the discrepancy between those two figures by indicating that people can perceive risk differently.
“We all measure risk differently,” Stuart said. “Some only associate risk with HIV; others consider all STIs to be a potential risk. For others, risk is measured by rejection for not being sexy enough, fit enough or interesting enough.”
It is worth noting that participants in this survey may have been in committed, long-term relationships, which could also contribute to the low perception of risk.
The perception of what constitutes risky sex is likely to have been altered by the increased awareness and adoption of PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis).
PrEP is a pill taken once daily which can significantly reduce the risk of contracting HIV by roughly 90%.
With MSM taking this new HIV preventing medication, some commentators have suggested that condom use and the perceived risk when engaging in condomless sex may also be lowered.
Jimmy, a respondent on the GMFA survey, revealed that he uses condoms at the discretion of his partner.
“It was with a couple of guys I’d met before. One guy barebacked me, the other wanted to use condoms – both were fine as I’m on PrEP.”
Although PrEP protects against HIV, it does nothing to protect against other STIs, which is why healthcare professionals are continuing to urge MSM to use safe sex practices like condom use.
In the last issue of GCN, Act Up Dublin’s Andrew Leavitt wrote about the “subversive message” of U=U, or undetectable equals untransmissable.
This scientifically backed message indicates that if an HIV positive person’s viral load is undetectable, then they cannot pass the virus onto their sexual partners.
The reason this is seen as subversive is that it is a complete paradigm shift in combatting the spread of HIV.
This recent development is also likely to alter the perceived risk of MSM.
As long as they are undetectable, there is no risk
Jimmy, the survey respondent, indicated that he would be willing to have sex with someone he knew was HIV-positive and undetectable.
“As long as they are undetectable, there is no risk. I’m on PrEP now, so the chances of catching it are significantly reduced,” he said.
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