Lisa Power, Policy Director at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “Reductions in partner change are accepted as a major factor in reducing sexually transmitted infections, which are rising amongst gay men. Yet at the same time, the Government and our current marriage system send the signal that those with same sex partners are somehow not worthy of the main institution which supports and encourages monogamy and has the potential for lower levels of partner change. This is illogical.
“If you spend your life being told you are a second class citizen, you take less care of yourself. Legislation to introduce equal marriage rights would be an important marker in convincing current and future generations that their lives have the same value whether they are attracted to the same sex, the opposite sex, or both. Increased self-esteem, driven by societal esteem and equality, will in turn drive improved self care.”
The charity’s response, which can be viewed in full here, argues that continuing inequality over marriage perpetuates stigma, which in turn contributes to disproportionately high levels of sexual ill health among gay men. There is substantial evidence to show that low self-esteem and stigma play a part in poor decision-making about health; if people do not think they are worthy of being looked after, they are less likely to look after themselves or take decisions that preserve and promote their personal health.
Gay men remain the group most disproportionately affected by HIV in the UK. One in 20 gay men is now living with the condition, with that figure rising to one in seven on the London gay scene. Rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) also remain high among this group, with cases of gonorrhea among gay men increasing by 63% between 2010 and 2011. Both lesbians and gay men have, amongst other health inequalities, higher levels of substance abuse and mental health concerns, due in considerable part to ongoing stigma and discrimination.