Makati, Philippines — Boys who identify themselves as “males having sex with males” (MSM) start having sex with other boys, as early as 14 on the average, a study on condom use among young MSMs in three key cities of the country revealed.

Among a sample of 908 young MSMs in Quezon City, Cebu City and Davao City, respondents in the 15-19 age group had their first sex at 14.4 years. Older MSM respondents aged 25 to 29 meanwhile reported their sexual debut at 16.5, while those in the 20-24 age group began at an average of 15.9.

One in every three (34.4%) of these MSMs reported using a condom at first sex. About 73% of them were also found to have used a condom during their most recent sexual encounter. These figures suggested MSMs who wore  a condom at first sex were twice more likely to wear one during their most recent sex than those who did not.

Only 39% among those who did not use a condom during their first intercourse admitted to having protection during their most recent sex.

The Center for Health Solutions and Innovations Philippines, Inc. (CHSI) conducted the study in August 2017 with a research grant from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Lead researcher Ruzzel Brian Mallari said the focus group discussions following the survey uncovered startling realities surrounding sexual practices of young MSMs.

“Most of the first sexual encounters of the respondents were with casual partners and social media emerges as a common venue to hook up with a partner,” said Mallari.

“The study validated findings from other researches that early condom use can influence subsequent use among MSMs,” UNFPA National Program Officer Dr. Joseph Michael Singh said.

A dislike for the use of condom, especially among MSMs who did not use one at first sex, stood out as the most common reason for non-condom use at the most recent encounter. Respondents who wore a condom at first sex reported not using one at most recent sex because the sexual encounter was unplanned.

CHSI and UNFPA presented the study results at a dissemination forum on November 28, 2017, in time for the celebration of World AIDS Day on December 1. Singh said the study would help in facilitating the design of interventions that address the rising cases of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection among young Filipino males.

The Department of Health reported an average of 31 cases of HIV daily as of October 2017. Three in 10 people afflicted with HIV were young males aged 15 to 24.

HIV puts its victims at risk of infections that rarely affect people with well-functioning immune systems. Its last stage is called AIDS or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.