By Brian Sullivan

Vanderbilt University researchers studying the affects of COVID-19 on LGBTQ Americans have found that gay and bisexual men have had fewer sexual partners during the pandemic.

Vanderbilt University Assistant Professor of Medicine, Health and Society Tara McKay spearheaded the study, and has recently focused her efforts on how COVID-19 is affecting economically and socially vulnerable populations. She recently partnered with the Metro Nashville government and Nashville Mayor John Cooper to share her research in a national webinar.

The team of experts collected data from April 10 to May 10, while most states had issued stay at home orders. Two thousand members of the LGBTQ+ community were asked about what changes they made to their sexual behavior during the pandemic. Of those, 760 were gay and bisexual men.

“Nine of 10 men in our sample reported having either one sexual partner or no sexual partner in the last 30 days, which, for many, was a substantial decrease compared to just before the pandemic,” the study found. “Men also made changes to the kinds of partners they had and their sexual activities with partners, engaged in new strategies to reduce their risks of infection from partners, and expressed high levels of concern about how HIV may affect COVID-19 risk, treatment and recovery.”

The study recruited participants using advertisements for LGBTQ adults aged 18 or older on two social media platforms, Facebook and Twitter, and on the hook-up app Grindr.

McKay says in the study, adverse affects like job and wage loss were increased up to 7 percent higher among the population than data collected on their heterosexual counterparts in other studies. McKay says this could be an indication that more LGBTQ+ people work in disproportionately affected industries such as service, restaurant and creative.

McKay said that while most members of the LGBTQ+ community in their study are having less sex, some are masturbating a lot more, but a significant portion of the population is not having sex or masturbating as frequently as they were before the pandemic.

McKay’s research is also looking into food insecurity and barriers to healthcare access among other issues. She says information about the LGBTQ+ community is vital.

“If we don’t know what the specific need is, then government agencies can’t do much to fix it,” McKay said. “We already know the LGBTQ+ community is disproportionately affected, but without that data, we don’t know to what extent. Collecting that data would be the best place to start.”

Over 100 U.S. Congressmen sent a letter on May 20 calling on the Trump administration to collect information on the sexual orientations and gender identities of COVID-19 patients.

McKay also says trans folks in particular are having a lot more difficulty accessing healthcare and routine medications, according to their study reports. Other data she is working on is a current study on the older LGBTQ+ population, and finding out how people over 50 years old are being affected.

Read the entire study by clicking here.