Researchers collected information on the year in which men first had anal sex, and whether a condom had been used. Results showed 74.5% of those whose first experience of anal sex happened between 2001 and 2005 reported using a condom, compared to only 6.5% of men whose first had anal sex occurred prior to 1976. This increase was especially pronounced in the mid-1980s after HIV was discovered.
"These results confirm that in the 1980s gay and bisexual men collectively launched one of the most successful public health responses in New Zealand history, which has been maintained throughout the 1990s and early 2000s," says Tony Hughes, NZAF Research Director. "It's a result that everyone should be proud of."
The research also found that gay and bisexual men who reported using condoms for their first experience of anal sex were far more likely to be still using condoms now. Early adopters of condoms were also less likely to report a recent or lifetime history of STIs.
"Given the sharp increase in HIV and other STIs within the last five years, this is good news," Hughes says. "The evidence clearly shows the protective effect condoms have if used consistently over time, and suggests that early condom use may be habit forming."
Over half of the men sampled in the research had their first experience of anal sex after 1996, the date when new treatments for HIV arrived which reduced deaths from AIDS. Results showed that condom use at first anal sex also reached a high plateau from this point.
"The challenge now for gay and bisexual men's communities will be maintaining a supportive environment around condom use in this new era of treatments for HIV," Hughes notes.