A lot of gay men might talk like they’re not worried about HIV, but it still ranks as our number one health concern, according to a new study out of Hunter College.
“The fear is that gay men are tired of hearing about how to prevent HIV, and because of new treatment options, HIV isn’t seen as a big deal anymore,” says Dr. Christian Grov, a researcher at Hunter’s Center for HIV Educational Studies and Training (CHEST).
With a goal to see if men who sleep with men were experiencing such HIV-prevention fatigue, CHEST interviewed more than 650 gay and bisexual men at clubs, gay bars and bathhouses about their health concerns. Interviewees were asked to rank HIV transmission as compared to smoking, body-image issues, mental health and drug/alcohol use.
HIV/STDs was ranked as the top concern, with mental health and substance abuse tying for second place. “These findings are promising for HIV prevention providers because they suggest many gay and bisexual men still recognize HIV as a top issue for the gay community,” says Grov.
But he’d like to see all these factors addressed in one fell swoop: “HIV does not exist in a vacuum. However, many treatment and prevention services exist in silos,” says Grov. You go to one place for HIV education and prevention, another place for mental health, and a third for anything related to substance abuse.” He supports the idea of addressing multiple issues when doing outreach—a “one-two-three” punch of HIV prevention and treatment, drug treatment and mental-health care.
The study also revealed that nearly three-quarters of recipients had smart-phones or tablets (compared to the 35% in the general population) suggesting such “smart” devices might be a good means of disseminating health information.