In April-May 2020, we conducted an online survey among Belgian LGBTQI to learn how they were coping with the COVID-19 period. We analysed the questionnaires of gay men to see to what extent they remained to have sex with non-steady partners and the need for PrEP follow-up. We also examined to what extent LGBTQI persons were having social contacts, and whether they experienced more feelings of loneliness, depression or anxiety.
Casual sex partners among MSM
While about 59% of the 692 MSM indicated to have had physical contact with non-steady sex partners before the COVID-19 period, this was only 9% during the first weeks of the early COVID-19 period. We found that many MSM had stopped using PrEP and that PrEP follow-up services had well adapted to this lockdown period. However, some participants remained to have concerns about their medical follow-up, and HIV or STI tests.
Depression and loneliness among LGBTQI
We found that the lockdown period had a large impact on feelings of depression, anxiety, and loneliness among the 965 LGBTQI persons in our survey. About 7.6% had been experiencing feelings of suicide or hurting oneself, multiple times per week, which is an increase of 74% when compared with the period before 18 March 2020. This is alarming as problems of mental well-being and suicide are already more frequent in this group.