A recent nationwide survey shows that a larger proportion of men say they are having sex with other men than in the 1980s, although whether that trend stems from an increase in same-sex activity or an increased willingness to report it remains unclear. John E. Anderson of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and his coauthor found that surveys collected since 1996 showed that 3.1%-3.7% of men reported having had sex with another man during the previous year. This is a sizeable jump from 1988 estimates of 1.7%-2%, they note.
However, along with this increase in reported activity, Anderson notes that attitudes about the acceptability of same-sex activity have also changed. In fact, he and his colleague, Ron Stall, found that between 1996 and 2000, up to 34% of survey respondents said they believed homosexuality was generally not wrong, while only 24% of people who completed the survey between 1988 and 1994 had similar attitudes toward same-sex activity. As such, society is still far from being completely accepting of gay men and lesbians, Anderson notes. Therefore, even the current estimates of how many men have sex with men are likely too low. "Male-to-male sex is still a sensitive, stigmatized behavior and...is likely to be underreported to some unknown degree," Anderson said. "Even though these recent estimates are somewhat higher than other surveys, they probably are still low."
The results from the current study, published in the November issue of Sexually Transmitted Diseases, stem from a series of surveys conducted between 1988 and 2000. Each survey included information collected from 500 to 1,200 adult men about their previous sexual experiences. The surveys asked about same-sex activity over the past year and all during adulthood.