One in four gay men have never had an HIV test

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A third of gay men aren’t sure what their HIV status is – and one in four gay men have never had a test for HIV.

Data was released today from the 2014 National Gay Men’s Sex Survey – the largest sexual health survey of men who have sex with men in the UK.

It found that 77% of gay and bisexual men have been tested for HIV in their lifetime, but one in four MSMhave never had an HIV test. 36% of men were not sure about their current HIV status.

55% of gay and bisexual men had been tested in the past 12 months – up from 36% in the 2010 survey.

Cary James, Head of Health Promotion at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “The Gay Men’s Sex Survey gives us a well rounded view of the landscape in which we’re working, since the data comes from gay and bisexual men themselves. These findings will help shape future sexual health promotion and HIV prevention tactics.

“We’re concerned that a third of gay men are not definite about their HIV status – particularly as we know that one in seven men who have sex with men are undiagnosed.

“Knowing your HIV status is key to tackling the HIV epidemic, as people who are on treatment are highly unlikely to pass on the virus, so it’s really important to get tested. Testing is fast, easy and confidential.”

Lead researcher Dr Ford Hickson of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said: “Our findings show that not all men having gay sex are accessing sexual health services regularly.

“Half of the men we surveyed didn’t know that doctors in the UK recommend they test for HIV at least once a year.”

One-in-three sexually active gay men had unprotected anal sex with at least one non-steady partner in the past 12 months.

Cary James continued: “Studies have suggested that condoms have prevented 80,000 infections since the start of the HIV epidemic.

“But this survey shows that perfect condom use is not a reality for everyone.

“We must continue to champion safe sex messages to gay men, but we also need to tackle prevention on all fronts if we are to beat this epidemic.

“That means regular testing, successful treatment and, critically, PrEP – in addition to condoms.”