Survey: 1/4 of Sexually Active Singles Not Worried About Contracting HIV

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June 27 marks the 26th annual National HIV Testing Day, which encourages individuals to get tested for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) which can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

National HIV Testing Day was first recognized in 1995, thirteen years after HIV and AIDS were initially identified. This was the peak of the AIDS crisis, when nearly 51,000 Americans died of the disease and treatment options were still limited.

Much has changed in the ensuing decades in terms of education, treatment, prognosis and de-stigmatization. To gauge the American public’s fear of HIV in 2021, we asked 1,250 single Americans ages 18 and older about their level of concern about contracting HIV.

I. Key Takeaways

  • 1 in 4 sexually active singles are “not very” or “not at all” worried about contracting HIV
  • 68% of sexually active single gay men are “extremely” or “very” worried about contracting HIV
  • 10% cite advancements in treatment, de-stigmatization as reasons they aren’t worried about contracting HIV

II. 26% of sexually active singles aren’t worried about contracting HIV

Overall, 26% of sexually active single adults say they are “not very” or “not at all worried” about contracting HIV. The majority of sexually active singles, 55%, are “extremely” or “very” worried about contracting HIV, and 19% are “somewhat” concerned.

Balancing HIV concerns with an active sex life may be easier to navigate now than it was at the start of the epidemic, but singles still need to be vigilant, Clinical Lab Scientist Adel Karsou warns.

“Current treatments for HIV/AIDS have come a long way since 1991,” he says. “The progression of HIV infection to AIDS can be delayed by decades and medications can lower the amount of HIV in the infected person’s body so that it becomes undetectable. Treatments also lower the chance of transmitting HIV to your partner. However it is important to emphasize two things: there is no cure and starting those treatments as soon as possible is key and can only be achieved by regularly testing for HIV, especially for high risk populations.”

Trust of partner, condom usage cited by those unafraid

The most-cited reason sexually active singles are not worried about contracting HIV is that they believe their sexual partner(s) do not have the virus, with 32% of respondents choosing this option. A similar number of respondents, 29%, say they don’t worry about contracting the virus because they always use condoms.

Far fewer sexually active singles indicate that other preventative measures, as well as advancements in medical treatment, are easing their concerns. Only 9% of respondents say they take a pre-exposure (prophylaxis) pill regularly, while 9% also say they don’t worry about getting HIV because modern medicine will allow them to live a normal life.

III. HIV still a serious concern for single gay men

As still the most affected demographic according to the CDC, gay and bisexual men are the most concerned about contracting HIV. Sixty-eight percent of sexually active single gay men, and 68% of sexually active single bisexual men, say they are either “extremely” or “very” worried about contracting HIV.

Nearly 7 in 10 gay or bisexual men are "extremely" or "very" concerned about contracting HIV

Gay men raised during AIDS crisis fear it the most

When examined by age, single gay men who came of age or were born during the worst of the AIDS crisis are most likely to be extremely or very worried about contracting AIDS, compared to older gay men, and those that were born after the epidemic’s peak. Sixty-seven percent of single gay men ages 35 to 54 have high levels of concern, compared to 51% of those 18-34, and 32% of those 54 and older.

Men twice as worried about HIV as women

Overall, sexualy active single men, regardless of sexual orientation, are more likely than sexually active single women to be concerned about contracting HIV, by a rate of 49% to 24%. Their concern is understandable. In 2018, men accounted for 81% of all newly diagnosed HIV cases in the U.S.; women accounted for just 18% of new cases.

IV. HIV Safety Guide

V. Methodology

The data from this report comes from an online survey created and paid for by The survey was administered by online survey platform Pollfish on June 4, 2021. We surveyed 1250 Americans aged 18 and older who are not currently in a monogamous relationship regarding their level of concern about contracting HIV.

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