Three quarters of HIV-positive gay men have experienced sexual rejection, according to a new survey.
The report from FS Magazine, which looks at stigma faced by those living with HIV, found that 73% of gay and bisexual men living with HIV have been rejected despite 96% of them being HIV-undetectable.
They also found that 97% of gay and bisexual men living with HIV believe there is still stigma associated with being HIV-positive, and that 84% receive or see the most stigma on dating apps such as Grindr.
17.3% said they have faced stigma in the work place, 20% said they have received stigma in pubs or clubs, and 22% said they’ve experienced stigma on social media.
Ian Howley, Interim CEO of gay mens’ health charity GMFA, said: “Overall we can see that there is an increase of stigma towards gay and bisexual men living with HIV, especially on dating apps and on social media. This might be down to more men being open about their status and more education about HIV and viral load is needed to reflect this.”
Worryingly, 83% said stigma from others has left them reluctant to disclose their status, a figure that’s up from 75% in 2014, and 62% believe that living with HIV makes it difficult to be in a relationship.
Ian continued: “Stigmatising people with HIV does not just impact those living with HIV. It discourages men from testing and accessing treatment that can save their lives and make them less likely to transmit the virus to their sexual partners.
“It also stops people from openly talking about HIV and safer sex. And it causes so much ignorance and fear that some people avoid sex altogether. This is not healthy. This is why it’s so important that we do our best to stop HIV stigma.”
Despite this apparent increase in stigma, 60% of gay and bisexual men living with HIV said that their life has improved since they became positive – up from 56% in 2014.
Ian added: “What’s encouraging is the increase of those who say they their life has improved since finding out they are HIV-positive. Many cited that it forced them to look after their health and mental health. This shows that knowing your status is important.”
The new issue of FS Magazine, called HIV Stripped Bare – Part 3: The Naked Truth About HIV Stigma, is available to read now at fsmag.org.uk