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Changing sexual behaviours amongst MSM during the COVID-19 restrictions in Wales: a mixed methods study

Williams, Adam, Gillespie, David ORCID:, Couzens, Zoë, Wood, Fiona ORCID:, Hughes, Kathryn ORCID: and Hood, Kerenza ORCID: 2022. Changing sexual behaviours amongst MSM during the COVID-19 restrictions in Wales: a mixed methods study. BMC Public Health 22 (1) , 396. 10.1186/s12889-022-12821-w

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Background The COVID-19 pandemic and its associated restrictions stopped people freely engaging in sexual behaviour. We explored sexual behaviour amongst men who have sex with men (MSM) using mixed methods during the multiple lockdowns in Wales. Methods An online survey was advertised on social media platforms (focusing on Welsh LGBT groups), from June 2020 to July 2020. MSM over 16 years were invited to take part if they were resident in Wales. Qualitative interviews were undertaken as part of a study examining knowledge and awareness of sexual health. Interviews were conducted between September 2020 and February 2021 via Zoom©. Interview data was analysed thematically and integrated with survey data. Results The survey received 70 responses, 60% (n = 42) reported not having sexual activity during lockdown. Restrictions altered the number of new sexual partners per week with over 80% (n = 56) not having any new sexual partners for the 12 weeks of the first lockdown. However, as the weeks progressed following the first lockdown there was an increase in the number of new sexual partners. Interview data indicated that the COVID-19 pandemic had a large impact on reducing sexual behaviour with other MSM in Wales. ‘Lockdown fatigue’ was viewed to result in different levels of adherence to the lockdown rules depending on the lockdown being discussed. Of those engaging in sex outside the rules, ‘shame’ was commonly reported. The restrictions were believed to have a positive impact on reducing the spread of sexually transmitted infections. Conclusions The COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions had a significant impact on sexual behaviours among MSM in Wales, with the majority fully adhering to the lockdown rules. Although the population were largely compliant with the lockdown restrictions, lockdown fatigue may suggest that any future lockdowns might not have the same effect.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Medicine
Centre for Trials Research (CNTRR)
Additional Information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Publisher: BioMed Central
ISSN: 1471-2458
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 10 March 2022
Date of Acceptance: 16 February 2022
Last Modified: 05 May 2023 21:13

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