The impact of COVID-19-related restrictions in 2020 on sexual healthcare use, pre-exposure prophylaxis use, and sexually transmitted infection incidence among men who have sex with men in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

HIV Med. 2023 Feb;24(2):212-223. doi: 10.1111/hiv.13374. Epub 2022 Oct 13.


Objectives: We studied the effects of restrictions related to the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2; coronavirus disease 2019 [COVID-19]) pandemic on the use of sexual healthcare and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and on the incidence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among men who have sex with men (MSM) in a prospective, open-label PrEP demonstration study (AMPrEP) in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Methods: We retrieved data from 2019 to 2020 for participants with one or more study visit in 2019 (n = 305) and from two COVID-19 questionnaires (2020: n = 203; 2021: n = 160). Analyses were stratified for three periods of pandemic-related restrictions (first: 15 March 2020-15 June 2020; second: 16 June 2020-15 September 2020; third: 16 September 2020-31 December 2020 or 1 April 2021 for the COVID-19 questionnaire). Endpoints included returning for care during the pandemic, PrEP use (increased/unchanged vs. deceased/stopped, relative to 2019), and any STI/HIV. We modelled determinants of care and PrEP use via multivariable logistic regression and STI incidence using piecewise Poisson regression, comparing the 2020 and 2019 periods.

Results: Of the 305 MSM included in the analysis, 72.8% returned for care during the pandemic, and this was significantly more likely among daily (vs. event-driven) PrEP users (p < 0.001). Increased/unchanged PrEP use ranged from 55.2% to 58.1% across the three pandemic periods and was more likely among those reporting chemsex in the first (p = 0.001) and third (p = 0.020) periods and among those reporting an increased/unchanged number of sex partners during the second period (p = 0.010). STI incidence was significantly lower in 2020 than in 2019 during the first period (incidence rate ratio [IRR] 0.43; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.28-0.68) and not significantly different during the second (IRR 1.38; 95% CI 0.95-2.00) and third (IRR 1.42; 95% CI 0.86-2.33) periods. No HIV was diagnosed.

Conclusion: COVID-19-related restrictions coincided with reduced care and PrEP use. Changes in STI incidence suggest delayed diagnoses. Ways to ensure continued access to sexual healthcare during restrictions are needed.

Keywords: COVID-19; men who have sex with men; pre-exposure prophylaxis; sexual healthcare use; sexually transmitted infections.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • COVID-19* / prevention & control
  • HIV Infections* / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections* / prevention & control
  • Homosexuality, Male
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis*
  • Prospective Studies
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases* / prevention & control