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Reproductive Sociology Research Group

Men’s Attitudes to Intimate Life (MAIL) is a multi-site interview study of views about intimate relationships, including parenthood, among HIV-positive gay and bisexual men in London. Led by ReproSoc’s Robert Pralat, the project seeks to find out how younger non-heterosexual men living with HIV approach their personal life and what they think about the future, in relation to either having or not having children. The study is funded by the British HIV Association and the Wellcome Trust, and conducted in collaboration with four HIV clinics in London.

Why is this study taking place?

Based on available estimates, 1 in 11 gay and bisexual men in England – and 1 in 8 in London – are HIV-positive, with about 50,000 gay and bisexual men estimated to be living with HIV in the UK in 2018 (Public Health England, 2019). Many research studies have focused on the men’s sexual health, 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 people. 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 aiming to achieve?

The study explores views about issues pertaining to parenthood and reproductive health, within the wider context of intimate relationships of men living with HIV. In 2016 we conducted in-depth interviews with patients and healthcare practitioners at HIV clinics in London. The study has examined 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. Preliminary findings from the study are summarised here and more detailed analyses of our data are currently being published in academic journals.

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 us 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.

Further information about the study is available here.