A new report published in BMJ Journals found 76% of queer men in the UK defied early Covid-19 restrictions for sexual relations, with isolation being a driving cause for this behaviour. The study, titled Covid-19 restrictions and changing sexual behaviours in HIV-negative MSM at high risk of HIV infection in London, asked 814 gay, bisexual and queer men questions about their activity between March 23 and June 30 2020. It was conducted in collaboration with researchers at 56 Dean Street, London’s largest sexual health and HIV clinic.
Out of those who engaged in sexual relations during the lockdown, 58% reported applying safety measures to avoid catching or spreading coronavirus; 21% chose to have sex with only one partner during lockdown, while 14% adopted sex positions that reduced face-to-face contact. When asked about their motivation for breaking lockdown restrictions, 48% said they were experiencing loneliness and isolation, with a further 27% reporting feelings of stress and anxiety. Around three quarters of all respondents said they were PrEP users.
The study concluded that greater awareness is required regarding the social and psychological needs of queer men during lockdown: “We feel that this report could help promote a discussion on unmet needs for MSM accessing SHS, to be addressed in case of further restrictions arising in the future. We identify the need for ongoing sexual health and PrEP service provision, to be carried with a non-judgemental approach, ensuring that patients do not feel disinclined to attend these services.” However, the authors added that the findings should be approached with caution due to the small sample size, and the potential that participants inaccurately recalled past events.