Changes in sexual behaviour, drug use, health-seeking, and social connectedness among gay and bisexual men due to COVID-19 will have significant impacts on trends in HIV and STIs over coming months. We need to monitor these changes from prior to the imposition of social distancing regulations through until after those restrictions are eased to understand the contexts and reasons for fluctuations in HIV and STI trends.
Leveraging on a longstanding and established cohort study of 3200 gay and bisexual men since 2014, this project is uniquely placed to monitor trends in sexual and other risk behaviours among GBM prior to and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and, potentially, during the period after its most significant impacts. No other longitudinal research project is positioned to be able to collect these data. Findings will directly inform interpretations of epidemiological trends in HIV and STIs.
The established study infrastructure will facilitate an open cohort design, with automated follow-up. Ongoing enrolment will occur throughout the study period. Weekly diaries will be used to detect and report short-term data trends in sexual and other risk behaviours. Six-monthly follow-up will continue to provide detailed contextual data on the overall impact of COVID-19 on personal relationships, social connectedness, and health-seeking.
Baseline COVID-19-specific survey is in the field. This survey round will identify short-term impacts of social and physical distancing on behaviours and social connectedness. Longer term follow-up will measure extent of changes during and following the current physical distancing regulations compared to past behaviours.
HIV and STI epidemiological trends will be impacted by behaviour change during COVID-19 social distancing regulations. Findings from this study will uniquely provide explanations and contexts for understanding those trends and will inform ongoing health and community interventions targeting gay and bisexual men.