Older gay men put off from getting tested for HIV following 1980s homophobia, research finds

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 9 August 2019 in News

Research from GCU finds 1980s homophobia could still be damaging the health of the older gay male population

Image credit:  G Jisc Infonet

Older gay men could be put off getting tested for HIV because they are still haunted by “mass homophobia of the 1980s”, according to new research.

The study, funded by GCU, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and NHS Lothian, analysed data from 2,436 men living in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland, to explore age-related differences in testing behaviour in men who have sex with men.

It found that homophobia from the 1980s and the introduction of the controversial Section 28 clause, an amendment to the Local Government Act 1988 banning local authorities and schools from “promoting” homosexuality, could still be damaging the health of the older gay male population.

The research suggests 37 per cent of HIV positive men who have sex with men in Scotland are currently undiagnosed.

Meanwhile researchers found that gay men aged 16-25 were more likely to get tested for HIV if they had a university degree.

Dr Jamie Frankis, reader in Sexual Health Psychology, said: “Homophobic stigma is having a negative impact on the health of our older men but not younger men who’ve lived through periods with less homophobia and greater equality.

“Our research showed that stigma was only associated with less recent HIV testing for older men. However, not identifying as gay was related to less HIV testing for men aged 26 and above.

“For older men, it looks like the barriers seem to come up in terms of your own management of sexual identity within the wider culture that you are living in. That would speak to the homophobia that was highly present in the ‘80s at the onset of HIV when gay men, who now are over 45, would have been young and they would have experienced massive homophobia, anti-gay and anti-HIV stigma.

“It is possible that older men are still troubled by the mass homophobia of the ‘80s and that is affecting their own testing behaviour. They could still be harbouring fears around HIV as a heavily stigmatised infection rather than the HIV of today, which is a highly manageable condition.”

The study was conducted by GCU’s Dr Jenny Dalrymple, Dr Jamie Frankis, Dr Kareena McAloney-Kocaman, former GCU Professor Paul Flowers, now at the University of Glasgow, and Professor Lisa McDaid, who has since moved to Queensland University in Australia.

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