More men are having sex with other men for money

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Sex between males is illegal in Botswana, but it is happening. The recently released Behavioural and Biological Surveillance Survey of HIV/STI shows that at least one in every five of these men are doing it for money.

The highly revealing report into high-risk populations, which include female sex workers and transgenders, was conducted in 2017 and released earlier this year.

Its findings on Men who have sex with men (MSM) are based on a sample of 800 men who are active in Gaborone, Francistown, Maun, Palapye and Chobe. Nearly the entire sample of men was made up of Batswana.

Data from the study suggests that average age of an MSM is 25 years. A previous similar study from 2012 found the average age to be 23 years. Francistown had the oldest average age at 28 years.

The report shows that there has been a significant overall increase in sex work among men. Data indicates that paid sex among MSMs rose from 7.8 percent in 2012 to 20.4% in 2017. Francistown in particular had the highest growth of male sex workers.

About two-thirds (59.7%) of male sex workers are not using condoms consistently with their male clients. About half of male sex workers reported that they had unprotected sex because they did not have condoms. This reason was particularly high in Chobe and Francistown, but lowest in Gaborone.

A Gaborone male sex worker was quoted in the report as saying: “Some [clients] say it is painful to use condoms”.

Unprotected sex among male sex workers was noticeably higher in Francistown and Maun where the business of sex work among males is booming.

The report shows that there was an overall significant increase in HIV prevalence among male sex workers. Data indicates that the HIV prevalence increased from 13.1% in 2012 to 19.1% 2017.

Francistown, in particular, saw a significant increase to 22.7%.

A third of all the men having sex with other men said they had disclosed their sexual identity to their families.

Most of those who disclosed said their families had since accepted and they were enjoying the support.

The report also found that the sexual identity of men having sex with other men was split halfway between bisexual and homosexual.

Gaborone men identify mostly as homosexual while most men in Francistown, Maun and Chobe identify as bisexual.

Most of the men having sex with other men are in a relationship with a boyfriend. Data indicates that about 40% of the men described themselves as being single. Interestingly, about one percent (1%) is married men.

About 48% of MSMs have tertiary education, which represents a 10% increment since the 2012 survey.  The survey shows that 38% of all the men sampled were unemployed.  Palapye had the highest unemployment rates.

The study indicates that most men start having sex with their close male friends. Overall, 60.5% of men having sex with men said all their first male partners were friends. The second commonest first partner was a stranger.

The report shows that consistent condom use among men having sex with other men has dropped while lubricant use has on the other hand increased.

Condom use has dropped from 84.2% to 77.2% with the greatest drop seen in Francistown (from 83.5% to 63.6%). Consistent lubricant use has on the other hand increased from 43.3% to 52.9% between 2012 and 2017 respectively, with Gaborone showing the greatest increase (from 50.2% to 65.4%).

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