Pretoria - The preferred identification of men who sleep with other men (MSM) is gay.
Some describe themselves as bisexual, and a smaller group say they are straight while an even smaller number prefers to be seen as transgender.
More than half of 925 men from three major cities participating in a Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) study admitted to having had sex with three or more partners within six months.
About 20 percent of Joburg’s men who sleep with other men said they had no male partner in the six-month period, while 12 percent from Cape Town and 23.5 percent in Durban said the same.
Some 13 percent of men Cape Town said they had been with one partner during the same period, and 10 percent from Durban said the same as did 15.4 percent from Joburg.
Asked about regular male and female sexual partners, many participants from Durban and Cape Town said they had not had sex with women in the six months.
More than 90 percent from Durban and 74 percent from Cape Town had not been with a woman. But 43 percent of Joburg participants said they had engaged in sex with women, while 63 percent said they had regular male partners.
At 39 percent, more men in Joburg said they had regular sex with women, with 16 percent from Cape Town and almost 3 percent of Durbanites admitting to that.
Slightly less than 10 percent of the Capetonians said they had no regular female partner, compared with 4 percent from Joburg and 5 percent from Durban.
The men were also asked about vaginal sex, condom use and if they had any transactional sex within the six-month period, in the two-year study called Marang Men’s Project.
The project report, released on Tuesday, is aimed at uncovering the behaviour of the men who sleep with other men and their HIV risk factor.
The researchers found these men at higher risk of HIV infections.
“Unprotected anal intercourse (barebacking) puts men who sleep with other men at increased risk for HIV infection. It is encouraging that condom use with a male partner was found to be more than 80 percent,” a project co-ordinator said.
The process was voluntary, the criteria being that participants be biologically male, 18 and older, and they should have been involved in consensual sex with another man.
A total of 286 men were from Cape Town, 290 from Durban and 349 from Johannesburg.
“Men who sleep with other men are hard to reach,” she said.
Blood specimens were tested for HIV, and their HIV results disclosed if the men so wished. More than half from Cape Town said they had sold sex to other men, while 11 percent from Durban and 23 percent from Joburg said they had done so.
Recommendations from the council included the establishment of a national combination HIV prevention programme for men who sleep with other men, that would entail targeted HIV prevention, care, treatment and counselling service.