Sex in the Era of COVID-19 in a U.S. National Cohort of Cisgender Men, Transgender Women, and Transgender Men Who Have Sex with Men: April–May 2020

Christian Grov, Fatima Zohra, Drew A. Westmoreland, Chloe Mirzayi, Alexa D’Angelo, Matthew Stief, Sarah Kulkarni, Denis Nash, Adam W. Carrico

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increasing body of research focused on the effects that measures like stay-at-home orders and social distancing are having on other aspects of health, including mental health and sexual health. Currently, there are limited extant data on the effects of the pandemic on sexual and gender minorities. Between April 15, 2020, and May 15, 2020, we invited participants in an ongoing U.S. national cohort study (Together 5000) to complete a cross-sectional online survey about the pandemic, and its effects on mental and sexual health and well-being (n = 3991). Nearly all (97.7%) were living in an area where they were told they should only leave their homes for essentials. Most (70.1%) reported reducing their number of sex partners as a result of the pandemic. Among the 789 participants prescribed HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), 29.9% said they stopped taking their PrEP entirely, and 14.2% started selectively skipping doses. For those who had been taking PrEP, discontinuing PrEP was associated with having no new sex partners (β = 0.90, 95% CI 0.40–1.40). Among the 152 HIV-positive participants, 30.9% said they were unable to maintain an HIV-related medical appointment because of the pandemic and 13.8% said they had been unable to retrieve HIV medications. Additionally, 35.3% of participants were experiencing moderate to severe anxiety because of the pandemic and 36.7% reported symptoms of depression. In a multivariable logistic regression, reporting a new sex partner in the prior 30 days was significantly associated with being aged 30 or older (vs. not, AOR = 1.21), being Black (AOR = 1.79) or Latinx (AOR = 1.40, vs. white), and being unsure if they had been in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 (AOR = 1.32, vs. no contact). It was unassociated with COVID-19-induced anxiety, depression, or knowing someone hospitalized with COVID-19. The pandemic has caused disruptions in sexual behavior (partner reduction) as well as difficulties navigating PrEP and HIV care continua. Findings will guide more comprehensive public health responses to optimize HIV prevention and treatment in the era of COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • HIV care
  • Mental health
  • Pre-exposure prophylaxis
  • Sexual and gender minorities
  • Sexual behavior
  • Transgender

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)

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