The COVID-19 Pandemic and Sexual Behavior among Gay and Bisexual Men in the United States
McKay, T., Henne, J., Gonzales, G. et al. Sexual Behavior Change Among Gay and Bisexual Men During the First COVID-19 Pandemic Wave in the United States. Sex Res Soc Policy (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-021-00625-3
25 Pages Posted: 31 May 2020 Last revised: 25 Aug 2021
Date Written: May 29, 2020
After decades of navigating HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, gay and bisexual men are again responding to new and uncertain risks presented by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic by adapting aspects of their sexual behavior. We fielded a survey of LGBTQ Americans’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic collected from April 10 to May 10, 2020, an important time period during which most states issued stay-at-home orders (April 10 to April 30) and also began implementing phased reopening (May 1 to May 10). In this paper, we limit analyses to a subsample of 728 gay and bisexual men and focus on changes to sexual behavior in response to the pandemic. We find that many gay and bisexual men made significant changes to their sexual behavior and partner selection. Nine out of 10 men in our sample reported having either one sexual partner or no sexual partner in the last 30 days, which, for many, was a substantial decrease compared to just before the pandemic. Men also made changes to the kinds of partners they had and their sexual activities with partners (e.g., more virtual sex), engaged in new strategies to reduce their risks of infection from partners, and expressed high levels of concern about how HIV may affect COVID-19 risk, treatment, and recovery. We expect these changes to be important not only for reducing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, but also for reducing new sexually transmitted infections. Despite substantial changes in sexual behavior for most men in our sample, we note concerns around the sustainability of sexual behavior change over time and nondisclosure of COVID-19 symptoms to partners.
Keywords: coronavirus, sexual behavior, gay and bisexual men, men who have sex with men, United States
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation