In collaboration with the gay community, UNSW Professor Martin Holt and his colleagues have conducted the Gay Community Periodic Surveys (GCPS) annually or biannually since 1996, to gather information about how gay and bisexual men protect themselves against HIV infection. The information gathered is used to inform best practice HIV prevention and treatment methods.



Research Area

Impact and engagement

A Collaborative Approach

The Gay Community Periodic Surveys (GCPS) help community organisations and government health agencies understand the social and behavioural practices of gay and bisexual men and provide critical data to guide policy and practice in HIV and sexual health. The surveys are recognised internationally as best practice in HIV behavioural surveillance and demonstrate an enduring model of partnership and community participation in research. The surveys play an important role in monitoring the uptake and impact of PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), an antiretroviral drug that prevents HIV acquisition. GCPS data played a crucial role in getting PrEP listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

What is the Data Used For?

The data underpins state and federal HIV policy and helps monitor progress against Australia’s National HIV Strategy. It also plays an important role in monitoring the uptake and impact of PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), an antiretroviral drug that prevents HIV acquisition.

The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) has been a community partner of the GCPS since inception and uses survey results to direct their education strategies. Senior Advisor Research, Dr Jeanne Ellard, says UNSW has involved AFAO at every stage of the research.

"Their approach means the research is accessible and relevant to the policy and health promotion work of the HIV community sector."

- Dr Jeanne Ellard, Senior Advisor Research

Pivotal in Directing Resources

ACON, Australia’s largest HIV and LGBTQ community organisation, says that working with the GCPS team has been pivotal in how they understand and direct their sexual health promotion work. Brent Mackie, Associate Director Policy, Strategy and Research says that survey results have allowed them to explore new and emerging issues, to raise concerns and test them against reliable and comprehensive data. “One of the key outcomes of the GCPS demonstrates in detail how PrEP is being used by the community, who is using it and which men we need to do more work with,” Mackie adds.

"The Gay Community Periodic Surveys are unique in that they been conducted in close partnership with community organisations and government health departments for over 20 years. No other country has such a good overview"

- Professor Martin Holt

Improving HIV Education and prevention

GCPS data has been used to promote the importance of HIV testing and safe sex practices. Data released by UNSW’s Kirby Institute indicates that HIV diagnoses in 2018 were at their lowest level since 2001. The data also reports a 23 per cent national decline in cases over the past five years which is largely due to a 30 per cent reduction in HIV diagnoses amongst men who have sex with men.

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Critically, the GCPS has been used to de-stigmatise HIV and bring the topic to the forefront of discussions in the gay and wider community in Australia.

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