Gay men, social support and HIV disease: a study of social integration in the gay community.
Hart G., Fitzpatrick R., McLean J., Dawson J., Boulton M.
As part of a large study of the effects of HIV and AIDS on gay male sexual behaviour, we investigated the extent to which gay men in the UK have access to social support and informal care at times of illness. The study sample (n = 502) demonstrated high levels of willingness to disclose sexuality to others, sociability and social integration. Over 90% reported that they had access to people whom they could turn for practical help at times of temporary incapacity. Between 42% and 46% have known a person, or persons, with HIV symptomatic disease, AIDS or someone who has died of AIDS, although men recruited in larger towns and cities were more likely to know people at every stage of HIV infection and AIDS than those from smaller towns. Twenty-five per cent had provided practical help and support to at least one person with AIDS; men in this situation were more likely to have had a close friend, lover or former lover who had died of AIDS. It is argued that it is not possible to expect the gay community to provide fully for the non-medical care of its members and, whilst some needs can be fulfilled on an informal care basis, the demands of long-term serious illness are such that adequate support services should be available in the community.