According to the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health, the number of people aged 29 or below infected with HIV through gay or bisexual contact, rose from 61 in 2011 to 202 in 2015, an increase of 231%.
From April 2014 to March 2015, AIDS Concern interviewed 642 local young gay men to understand more about their behavior. Only 43% of the sample reported continuously using condoms during sex in the past six months. The main reasons reported for not using condoms were ‘trusting partners’ and ‘partner’s requirements’.
AIDS Concern also conducted in-depth interviews with 20 young gay men, in order to understand why they put themselves at risk. Research focused on four areas: 1) vigilance on HIV/AIDS, 2) the convenience of public information and services for young gay men, 3) education about ‘sexual minorities’, and 4) the impact of online dating software on the young gay community.
The respondents were split onto two groups: A and B. Respondents in Group A were more familiar with AIDS Concern/ associated Non-government organizations (NGOs), while respondents in Group B were not.
The results of the survey show that, Group A has far higher vigilance on HIV/AIDS; they are able to receive up-to-date information on AIDS and related treatment from NGOs. Their awareness of the impact of HIV/AIDS affected their behavior on use of condoms, and the habit of HIV testing. ‘My friend is infected (HIV virus), I feel like AIDS is closer than expected’ one respondent in Group A said. Meanwhile one respondent from group B stated AIDS is far away because he thought he is very careful when meeting others.
The survey also identified that public resources are not sufficient to respond to the needs of young gay men. Respondents pointed out that young gay men need mental and emotional support during adolescence, as they begin to realize their gay identity and struggle for identity during this period. One respondent reported how he was thrown out of his home by parents at 18 years old because of his sexual orientation, being forced to cope on his own.
Another key finding a substantial lack of information about ‘sexual minorities’ during secondary school. Many respondents indicated their strong desire that education on sexual minorities should be included in sex education to prevent crises and enhance social support for them. One interviewee said he was told to meet with social worker at school to deal with his sexual orientation concerns, but besides that there was no one to support him.
Finally, the survey found that online dating software has had an impact on relationships and attitudes of young gay men. The respondents pointed out that the dating software speeds up the process of young gay men finding partners or boyfriends. However, it may also reduce the number of long term relationships and increase their number of sexual partners.
In conclusion, young local gay men are confronted with challenges from society, their families, peers and even themselves. They have to deal with the negative impact of sexual orientation alone, facing stress and mental health issues due to the lack of support. They are therefore more likely to rely on the support of their partners and are less likely to reject their partner’s demands – including pressure not to use condoms.
Program Director of AIDS Concern, Mandy Cheung said: ‘We urge the government to step up support for young gay men by allocating more community resources to provide appropriate training for social workers and secondary school teachers. This especially needs to focus on teaching students to understand ‘sexual minorities’ and their needs. AIDS Concern also urges for legislation to outlaw discrimination against sexual minorities.’
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About AIDS Concern (https://aidsconcern.org.hk/)
“AIDS Concern” was established in 1990 as the first non-government charity organization committed to the service of AIDS-care and consultation in Hong Kong. Our vision is to create “TRIPLE ZERO” Hong Kong, this means ZERO new infections, ZERO stigma and ZERO AIDS deaths. AIDS Concern will lead social change by individuals, organisations and society to achieve TRIPLE ZERO, to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS and eliminate stigma for people living with HIV.