One in five men who think they are HIV-negative have never taken an HIV test

Men are lacking the basic knowledge that could help decrease the spread of HIV, a survey has suggested.

The men’s sexual health study, the largest of its kind, showed that gay and bi men’s awareness of HIV, testing, and PrEP is dangerously low.

Overall, 19% of men who think that they are HIV-negative have never actually taken an HIV test.

National HIV testing day

National HIV testing day (Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation)

Men’s health charity GMFA surveyed gay and bisexual men this year as part of its ‘How Risky Am I?‘ programme.

The project was designed to help men find out their sexual health score and receive free information and advice on HIV testing and treatment.

And that advice certainly seems to be necessary.

Out of the 9,000 gay and bi men surveyed, 20% have never had a sexual health screening.

And only 26% said they “always” use a condom when they have anal sex.

22% were unaware of what ‘viral loads’ means, while nearly one in four did not know that people who are HIV-undetectable cannot pass on the virus.

Man holding a pill used for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV infection

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)

The results come soon after World AIDS Day, which aims to raise knowledge about the fight against HIV.

Awareness of PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis), the anti-viral medication taken by those who are HIV-negative to lower the risk of contracting the virus, is a crucial part of this knowledge base.

But 24% of the men did not know what PrEP was.

Ian Howley, Chief Executive of GMFA said: “It’s very clear from these results that there is still a major information gap about PrEP, PEP and what being HIV-undetectable means for men who are at the peak of their sexual activity.”

“Many men under the age of 39 years old are lacking basic knowledge that could stop them from becoming HIV-positive.”

People who have HIV are growing old for the first time, but the GMFA results show that the majority of men over 60 don’t know what PrEP is.

Howley said: “I also want to focus on the men who responded to this tool over the age 60.

“We in the HIV sector must not forget that there is no cut-off point when someone stops having sex.

“We can’t assume that just because they lived through the 80s and 90s older gay men don’t need sexual health education.

“We must reach out to older gay and bisexual men just like we do with younger gay men.”

Overall, there has been a near-80% drop in diagnoses of HIV in the UK, but the condition continues to be dogged by stigma and a lack of education.

You can view the full results of the survey here.