Sigma Research
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The Sigma Panel for gay men, bisexual men and other men that have sex with men (MSM)

Duration: December 2010 - March 2012

As part of the CHAPS research and development programme Sigma Research recruited more than 2,000 gay men, bisexual men and other men that have sex with men (MSM) in England for a study consisting of 12 monthly online interviews, preceded by an introductory profiling survey. Participants were asked monthly about their sexual behaviours and their engagement with HIV prevention interventions, alongside qualitative and quantitative assessments of psycho-social factors associated with sexual risk, HIV health promotion needs and views on health promotion interventions in development.

The Panel described:

  • The level and distribution of risk and precautionary behaviours, how they change at the individual level over a one year period and influences on these behaviours at the level of the individual and the sexual event, including engagement with interventions.
  • The factors influencing risk and precautionary choices, in particular men’s values and perceptions of the consequences of sexual risk practices and their perceptions of the values of significant others.
  • The factors influencing the feasibility and acceptability of varied intervention types and styles across a range of sub-groups.

The immediate outputs of this activity were called Insight Blasts - they were short, focussed reports with a short turnaround time for analysis and output to health promoters developing and delivering sexual health interventions with or for MSM. The Insight Blasts are distributed in the form of PDFs and are not designed or printed.

Sigma Panel Insight Blasts
Insight Blast 1: HIV testing (March 2011).
Insight Blast 2: The next sexual partner (May 2011).
Insight Blast 3: Anal intercourse and condom use (June 2011).
Insight Blast 4: Notifying former sex partners about STI diagnoses (August 2011).
Insight Blast 5: STI screening before the next sexual partner (September 2011).
Insight Blast 6: Attitudes to PrEP (October 2011).
Insight Blast 7: Messages promoting STI screening (November 2011).
Insight Blast 8: Sexual exclusivity (December 2011).
Insight Blast 9: Poppers (June 2012).

The Sigma team are still preparing journal articles focussed on analysis of change within the Panel data. This research was funded as part of the evaluation and development programme of CHAPS. CHAPS was a partnership of community-based organisations carrying out HIV prevention and sexual health promotion with gay men, bisexual men and other MSM in England. It is a national HIV prevention partnership funded by the Department of Health for England and co-ordinated by Terrence Higgins Trust. Alongside THT it included The Eddystone Trust (South West England), GMFA (London), Healthy Gay Life (Birmingham), The Lesbian & Gay Foundation (Manchester), Metro Centre (London), TRADE Sexual Health (Leicester), and Yorkshire MESMAC.

Key contact: Ford Hickson