The European MSM internet survey

Sept. 3, 2019

Sex between men remains the predominant mode of HIV transmission in the EU/EEA countries, where the first signs of a decline in reported new cases resulted from a 20 percent drop in new diagnoses among MSM (2015-2017).

The European Men-Who-Have-Sex-With-Men Internet Survey (EMIS-2017) collected comparable data in 33 languages to understand changes over time in the behavior, needs and interventions affecting HIV incidence among MSM also in comparison with results from the EMIS survey in 2010. Almost 128 000 men who have sex with men from 48 countries in Europe responded to the online survey in 2017. The results show considerable differences across the countries reflecting Europe’s diversity with respect to sexual health and behavior of MSM.

The results thus provide knowledge based on large-scale, comparable data from across Europe to help understand the impact of available prevention and treatment programs, including the influence of emerging and changing behavioral trends and how these factors influence risk behavior among MSM. The report describes both MSM behavior and needs, alongside resulting morbidities, and the likely value of current services to address these.

The response from 127,792 men who have sex with men to a survey that focused on knowledge about HIV and sexually transmitted infections, sexual behavior, access to care, HIV-related stigma and the use of services for HIV and sexual health is a strong indication that this group cares about HIV and sexual health issues. For example, every second (56 percent) respondent had received an HIV test result in the last 12 months and almost half (46 percent) had tested for other STI during the same period. At the same time, the survey responses helped identifying a variety of needs in this group, as e.g. 41 percent of the respondents did not know that vaccination against hepatitis A and B is recommended for MSM.

Based on the survey results, the report also summarizes recommendations on how to address identified needs and gaps. For example, the authors conclude that national prevention programs should continue to provide and promote comprehensive STI testing, tailored to the sexual repertoire of MSM. Reducing the stigma associated with (homo) sexual practices, comprehensive testing policies and affordable costs are essential to adequate STI screening.

The survey findings aim to inform HIV and STI prevention and care programs and the comparable data allow monitoring of national progress in this area.

EMIS-2017 was executed by Sigma Research (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) as part of European Surveys and Training to Improve MSM Community Health (ESTICOM). ESTICOM was a three-year project (2016-2019) funded by the European Commission Health Program 2014-2020 through a tender by the Consumers, Health, Agriculture and Food Executive Agency (Chafea). The tender requested evidence about the sexual health of gay men, bisexual men and other men who have sex with men across Europe.