Access to useful and relevant information about sex, relationships and HIV at a young age is crucial to HIV prevention; this is particularly important for men who have sex with men (MSM) who are at greater risk of acquiring HIV. Where young MSM source this information will influence their understanding and their ability to make informed decisions which support their sexual health and wellbeing.
Despite this, little is known about where young.
MSM learn about sex, relationships and HIV and how they feel about the information they receive. This knowledge gap is of concern, given that in 2013 new HIV diagnoses among MSM in the UK reached a record high.
Among younger MSM (aged 15 to 24), HIV diagnoses have doubled in 10 years. This increase is partly due to the fact that more MSM are testing for HIV but also because rates of HIV transmission remain high.
Young MSM are also more likely to experience a range of other health issues3, for example, poor mental health and problematic drug and alcohol use. These factors not only impact on individual well-being but have also been associated with HIV transmission risk behavior.
For this reason NAT (National AIDS Trust) carried out a survey of young MSM asking them where they looked for information about sex, relationships and HIV and how helpful they found the information they received. The survey also looked at respondents’ knowledge of HIV and experience of sex and relationship education in school. With over 1,000 respondents, ‘Boys who like boys’ is the largest survey of this kind ever conducted in the UK.
This report provides a summary of the survey’s
key findings as well as a series of recommendations to improve information, advice and support for young MSM.
The online survey was designed by NAT after extensive background research and consultation with academics and professionals working with young MSM. It was piloted with a group of young MSM accessing an LGBT support service in Brighton.
The online survey method was chosen as the most cost-effective way to reach a large number of the target population. This approach also allowed respondents to be anonymous which was particularly important considering the perceived sensitivity of the topics covered and the young age of the targeted population.
The survey was promoted between April and June 2014 through a broad range of channels (both offline and online) including social networking apps and websites, Facebook advertisements, the LGBT media, and organizations and services working with young people throughout the UK.
To be eligible to take part, respondents had to identify as male (including trans men), be aged between 14 and 19, and be attracted to men. This included men who are attracted to women as well as men.4
Twenty seven percent of respondents were aged 14 to 15, 48% were aged 16 to 17 and 25% were aged 18 to 19 (see graph 1). Eighty three percent of respondents were from England, 8% from Scotland, 5% from Wales, and 4% from Northern Ireland (see graph 2). The majority of participants identified as white (91%) with 8% identifying as either black, mixed or another ethnicity.
This report is a summary of key findings from completed surveys only. Over 3,500 people began the survey but many were ineligible to take part based on the eligibility criteria. Nearly 3,000 people were eligible and began the survey, but only 1,096 completed it. Those who were ineligible or did not complete the survey were excluded from the analysis. We disaggregated the data by age groups and by how respondents identified to see if there were any differences between these groups.
Age of respondents
18-19 14-15 25% 27%
Regional distribution of respondents
￼￼￼￼￼ Due to the low number of respondents who identified as trans men, we were unable to disaggregate the data by gender identity to explore whether there were any differences between trans men and cisgender men. We recognise that trans men may have specific as well as similar needs, and this requires more targeted and tailored research. However, many of the survey’s findings will be relevant to all those who identify as male, including trans men.
Sexual orientation and sexual identity
over a third of survey respondents stated that they were attracted to both men and women.
Fifteen percent of survey respondents identified as something other than gay or bisexual, with 10% identifying as straight / heterosexual and 5% identifying as ‘something else’.
Respondents who identified as straight / heterosexual were significantly less likely to have looked for all types of information, advice or support.
Sex and relationships education (Sre) at school
three quarters of survey respondents had not received any information, advice or support about same-sex relationships and attraction in SRE.
A third had not received any information on HIV transmission and safer sex in SRE.
Over two-thirds had not received any information on HIV testing.
Bullying and discrimination
Over half (55%) of survey respondents had experienced bullying and discrimination because of their sexual orientation.
Of those who had, 99% had been bullied or discriminated against by a pupil at school and over a third (39%) had been bullied or discriminated against by a teacher or another adult at school.
three quarters had been bullied or discriminated against by someone on-line (including apps, forums or social media).
Where do young MSM look for information?
Over half of survey respondents had not looked anywhere for information, advice or support about HIV.
Being too embarrassed was a common reason selected for not looking for information on each topic.
Websites with information and advice and gay lifestyle / community publications were very common sources for all topics of information. The majority of respondents rated them as helpful or very helpful.
Pornography was the most common source where respondents looked for information about enjoyable sex. A notable proportion of respondents rated pornography as helpful or very helpful.
A teacher or another adult at school, and someone at a sexual health clinic, were both common sources where respondents looked for information about HIV. the majority of respondents rated these sources as helpful or very helpful.
When respondents were asked how they would like to receive information about HIV in the future, the results changed, with a gP being the most common choice.
A notable number of respondents also looked for information from people they knew, such as a friend, brother or sister, or a boyfriend or casual partner.
What types of information would young MSM value more of?
nearly three quarters of respondents (73%) would value more information about relationships and being attracted towards other guys.
Over two thirds of respondents (68%) would value more information about ways to have sex that you enjoy with another guy.
Over half of respondents (53%) would value more information about being bullied or treated unfairly because you’re attracted towards other guys.
Over a quarter of survey respondents (27%) did not know or were not sure that ‘HIV can only
be passed on through semen, vaginal and rectal fluids, blood or breast milk’.
Almost a third of survey respondents (29%) did not know or were not sure that ‘You cannot get HIV through any kind of kissing, because saliva does not pass on HIV’.
Nearly three quarters of survey respondents (71%) did not know or were not sure that ‘If you think you have put yourself at risk of getting HIV you can take a drug called PEP, which can prevent HIV infection if taken within 72 hours.’
Sixty per cent of survey respondents did not know or were not sure that ‘Guys who have sex with other guys are recommended to have an HIV test at least once a year’.
Seventy five per cent of young MSM did know that ‘In the UK, it is against the law to treat anyone unfairly, based on their sexual orientation. For example, because you are a guy who is attracted towards other guys’.
National AIDS Trust: Boys Who Like Boys
Lord Norman Fowler
As Secretary of State for Health in 1986, I was responsible for the first campaign to educate the British public about HIV. Now, nearly thirty years on, access to information about HIV, sex and relationships still remains vital to prevention.Young MSM are also more likely to experience a range of other health issues3, for example, poor mental health and problematic drug and alcohol use. These factors not only impact on individual well-being but have also been associated with HIV transmission risk behaviour.For this reason NAT (National AIDS Trust) carried out a survey of young MSM asking them where they looked for information about sex, relationships and HIV and how helpful they found the information they received. The survey also looked at respondents’ knowledge of HIV and experience of sex and relationship education in school. With over 1,000 respondents, ‘Boys who like boys’ is the largest survey of this kind ever conducted in the UK.This report provides a summary of the survey’skey findings as well as a series of recommendations to improve information, advice and support for young MSM.
Public Health England. (2014), HIV in the United Kingdom: 2014 Report: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/377194/ 2014_PHE_HIV_annual_report_19_11_2014.pdf2 Public Health England. Prevention Groups HIV data tables – Table 9: HIV diagnosed MSM seen for HIV care by age: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/hiv-data-tables3 Department for Health. (2007), Reducing health inequalities for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people – briefings for health and social care staff – Briefing 3: Young lesbian, gay and bisexual people: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130107105354 / http://www.dh.gov.uk/prod_consum_dh/groups/dh_digitalassets/@dh/@en/documents/digitalasset/dh_078355.pdfMetro (2014), Youth Chances Summary of First Findings: The Experiences of LGBTQ young people in England: http://www.youthchances.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/YC_REPORT_FirstFindings_2014.pdf