Promoting HIV testing HIV testing continues to rise in UK gay men, but safer sex knowledge drops

Roger Pebody
Original Article:

With health services and HIV prevention organisations now having relentlessly focused on HIV testing for several years, new data suggest that more English gay men have recently taken an HIV test, have good knowledge of HIV testing and were happy with testing services. But the data, from the 2014 Gay Men’s Sex Survey, also include signs of decreases in basic knowledge of safer sex and of poorer access to condoms.

“Are we putting all our prevention needs in one testing basket?” Ford Hickson of Sigma Research asked the HIV Prevention England conference in London yesterday.
Over the last decade, HIV testing has become a public health priority and many more clinical services have invited gay and bisexual men to test. An increasing proportion of HIV prevention campaigns have focused on testing and many local HIV prevention services have offered testing as part of their outreach work. But some feel that some of the other ‘bread and butter’ issues of HIV prevention may have been neglected.

The data presented were the first to emerge from the 2014 Gay Men’s Sex Survey, which recruited a large convenience sample of men through dating websites and apps, Facebook promotion and HIV organisations.

The data are cross-sectional, but comparisons are made between the surveys conducted in 2010 and 2014. In order to improve the validity of these comparisons, only men recruited through dating websites and apps are included (the other recruitment methods weren’t used in 2010). Moreover, there was statistical adjustment for observed differences between the samples (geographical area, average age, level of education, employment and identifying as ‘gay’). The comparison is of 11,519 men in 2010 and 6784 men in 2014.

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