Men’s Attitudes to Intimate Life (MAIL) seeks to find out how younger non-heterosexual men living with HIV approach their personal life and what they think about the future. The study is a two-year project funded by the British HIV Association and the Wellcome Trust. It is conducted by the Reproductive Sociology Research Group (ReproSoc) at the University of Cambridge in collaboration with HIV clinics in London.
Why is this study taking place?
Based on available estimates, 1 in 20 gay men in the UK – and 1 in 10 gay men in London – have HIV. Many research studies have focused on the sexual health of gay and bisexual men, but the reproductive health of this population has received little attention. Studies of gay fathers rarely mention HIV and what we know about HIV-positive parenthood concerns heterosexual women and couples. There is virtually no scientific evidence about what men who live with HIV and who form same-sex relationships think about having children. At a time of medical advancements in antiretroviral treatment and the growing visibility and social acceptance of gay fatherhood, it is important to have such evidence.
What is the study going to do?
The study will explore views about issues such as fertility, family planning and ageing in a group of younger (20-45 years old) gay and bisexual men living with HIV, through in-depth interviews with patients and healthcare practitioners at HIV clinics in London. The study will also examine whether patients and practitioners talk about reproductive health issues, whether there is a need for such discussions or for particular kinds of information and whether any communication barriers exist.
How will the study’s findings be useful?
The study’s findings will help develop guidelines to facilitate effective communication with HIV-positive men about their reproductive health. More broadly, the findings will help understand how younger gay and bisexual men living with HIV approach the prospect of becoming parents or remaining childfree. This will have further implications for more general health and social care provision, which needs to reflect the changing realities of living with HIV and of forming same-sex relationships.