The purpose was to assess COVID-19 beliefs and attitudes and examine COVID-19–related changes in sexual behavior of men who have sex with men during 3 time periods: April–July 2020 (T1), August–December 2020 (T2), January–May 2021 (T3).
Data were analyzed from 157 men who have sex with men in Ohio recruited to participate in a longitudinal multisite network study of syphilis epidemiology in 3 US cities: Columbus, Ohio; Baltimore, Maryland; and Chicago, Illinois. In April 2020, a COVID-19 module was appended to existing baseline and follow-up surveys to assess beliefs, attitudes, and changes in sexual behavior. Sample characteristics were summarized. Correlations between demographic variables (age, racial identity) and COVID-19 outcomes were examined.
In response to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions and self-reported anxiety, some men limited sexual activity at T1, but the majority (n = 105 [67%]) continued to engage in sex. The number of men engaging in sex increased over time (T2: n = 124 [79%]; T3: n = 121 [77%]). At T1, men not in a relationship more frequently reported having less sex compared with prepandemic (n = 39 [57%]). By T3, men in a relationship more frequently reported less sex (n = 32 [54%]). Increased anxiety about sex and condom use was positively correlated with identifying as a man of color (P < 0.001). Most of the sample reported either starting or increasing online sexual activity during each time period.
Future efforts to target sexual health during a pandemic or other health emergencies should prioritize men of color and address the unique perspective of both single and partnered men.