Gay, bisexual, queer, and trans men, and Two-Spirit and non-binary people (GBT2Q) in Canada continue to experience disproportionately high rates of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. With many GBT2Q facing barriers to testing and care, including social barriers like homophobia and stigma, innovative new approaches and timely population data are needed to address the epidemic in this community.
Sex Now is Canada’s largest and longest-running survey of GBT2Q. Originally commissioned in 2002 by the BC Centre for Disease Control to investigate the increasing rates of HIV infection among gay men in British Columbia, it has since evolved to study the health and wellbeing of the GBT2Q community across Canada.
“Sex Now is an essential source of data on the health and wellbeing of GBT2Q, and is widely used by community, public health, research, and policy stakeholders. We give the data back to community, through a public data visualization website called Our Stats,” said CTN Investigator Dr. Nathan Lachowsky, who currently leads the study.
He continued, “The answers our participants provide go a long way in improving policies and programs related to the GBT2Q community. For example, Sex Now data were used by the federal government in their decision to enact the ban on conversion therapy and also influenced Canadian Blood Services to reform the blood donation policy to no longer bar all men who have had sex with men in the past three months from donating.”
The latest iteration of the survey, CTN 334: Sex Now/Test Now 2022, was launched in June 2022. Taking place at Pride festivals and other queer venues across Canada (listed here), the study will collect information on the health and wellbeing of GBT2Q, examine barriers and facilitators of self-testing for HIV, and assess linkage to treatment, prevention, and testing across the country. By taking part in Sex Now 2022, participants will be adding their voice to the thousands of others who are also advocating for positive change.
“We invite all members of the GBT2Q community to participate in our survey, especially those living with HIV,” said Dr. Lachowsky. “This year, CBRC, in partnership with REACH Nexus and the CTN, are also offering free HIV self-tests to any Sex Now participant who is 18 years of age or older. Participants can use the HIV self-test at our booth or take it home to use themselves or give to someone they know.”
The HIV self-test component of Sex Now, known as Test Now, aims to empower people to overcome barriers to conventional HIV testing and improve access to valuable care. Anyone who chooses to take a self-test will be offered support and additional counselling from a peer navigator to encourage access to prevention resources, comprehensive sexual health testing, and linkage to care.
If you’re worried about spending too much time away from the fun, there’s no need! The Sex Now survey only takes about 15 minutes to complete and, adding on the optional on-site HIV self-test takes just 10 minutes. As a small thanks, participants will receive a $10 cash honorarium and a snazzy “Sex Now” dog tag to wear with pride.
Going to Pride and interested in taking part or want to request an HIV self-test for yourself or a friend? The Sex Now team should be easy to spot. Look for the fabulous people in pink Sex Now t-shirts as well as tents with the “Sex Now” banner!