Approximately 50% of sexually active gay men in the UK had unprotected anal sex in the last year, according to the results of the 2005 Gay Men's Sex Survey, Consuming Passions, which has been published by Sigma Research. The survey also revealed that over 40% of gay men in the UK are unaware of their own HIV status and most sexual encounters occur between men who have not disclosed their HIV infection status.
The study showed in no uncertain terms that a significant amount of sexual activity was taking place that involved a very real risk of HIV transmission. Specifically, it was shown that approximately one-third of HIV-positive men (rising to over 50% of men with large numbers of partners) had had unprotected insertive anal sex with a man who was either HIV-negative or of unknown HIV status; that almost 20% of HIV-negative men had had receptive unprotected anal sex with a man of unknown HIV status, as had approximately a fifth of untested men (rising to 30% of untested men with the greatest numbers of partners.
Some myths about the causes of sexual risk taking were also dispelled by the survey. There has long been an assumption that gay men have low self-esteem, partly related to feelings about their attractiveness, leading to risky sex. However, few men in the survey reported rating their attractiveness as below average, and HIV-positive men were the most likely to rate their looks as better than the norm.
The ninth Gay Men's Sex Survey was completed by almost 16,500 men in the summer and early autumn of 2005.