The study recruited 275 HIV-negative male couples via Facebook. It found that 21% tested for HIV every three to six months, 29% had an annual test, 30% tested only when they thought one of them might have taken a risk, and the other 20% had not tested for HIV while in their current relationship.
Men who had not tested for HIV were – not unexpectedly – more likely to be in a new relationship but were also more likely to be younger and less educated. They were less likely to have negotiated an agreement about sex outside the relationship and more likely to say they were faithful and trusted their partner to be. Conversely, men who tested frequently were older, less trusting, more likely to have had recent ‘extramarital’ sex and more likely to have an agreement with their partner about their relationship’s sexual boundaries.
Given that HIV testing rates are still lower in the UK than in the US, especially for frequent testing, the percentage of gay men in a primary relationship who don’t test is likely to be higher here.
Some previous studies have suggested that a majority of HIV infections in gay men are acquired from steady partners, including partners who were believed to be HIV negative.
The researchers recommend interventions to help men in couples with testing, especially in developing and maintaining a plan for repeat HIV testing that accurately reflects the risks taken in their relationship.