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1.  Elevated Risk for HIV Infection among Men Who Have Sex with Men in Low- and Middle-Income Countries 2000–2006: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(12):e339.
Background
Recent reports of high HIV infection rates among men who have sex with men (MSM) from Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the former Soviet Union (FSU) suggest high levels of HIV transmission among MSM in low- and middle-income countries. To investigate the global epidemic of HIV among MSM and the relationship of MSM outbreaks to general populations, we conducted a comprehensive review of HIV studies among MSM in low- and middle-income countries and performed a meta-analysis of reported MSM and reproductive-age adult HIV prevalence data.
Methods and Findings
A comprehensive review of the literature was conducted using systematic methodology. Data regarding HIV prevalence and total sample size was sequestered from each of the studies that met inclusion criteria and aggregate values for each country were calculated. Pooled odds ratio (OR) estimates were stratified by factors including HIV prevalence of the country, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)–classified level of HIV epidemic, geographic region, and whether or not injection drug users (IDUs) played a significant role in given epidemic. Pooled ORs were stratified by prevalence level; very low-prevalence countries had an overall MSM OR of 58.4 (95% CI 56.3–60.6); low-prevalence countries, 14.4 (95% CI 13.8–14.9); and medium- to high-prevalence countries, 9.6 (95% CI 9.0–10.2). Significant differences in ORs for HIV infection among MSM in were seen when comparing low- and middle-income countries; low-income countries had an OR of 7.8 (95% CI 7.2–8.4), whereas middle-income countries had an OR of 23.4 (95% CI 22.8–24.0). Stratifying the pooled ORs by whether the country had a substantial component of IDU spread resulted in an OR of 12.8 (95% CI 12.3–13.4) in countries where IDU transmission was prevalent, and 24.4 (95% CI 23.7–25.2) where it was not. By region, the OR for MSM in the Americas was 33.3 (95% CI 32.3–34.2); 18.7 (95% CI 17.7–19.7) for Asia; 3.8 (95% CI 3.3–4.3) for Africa; and 1.3 (95% CI 1.1–1.6) for the low- and middle-income countries of Europe.
Conclusions
MSM have a markedly greater risk of being infected with HIV compared with general population samples from low- and middle-income countries in the Americas, Asia, and Africa. ORs for HIV infection in MSM are elevated across prevalence levels by country and decrease as general population prevalence increases, but remain 9-fold higher in medium–high prevalence settings. MSM from low- and middle-income countries are in urgent need of prevention and care, and appear to be both understudied and underserved.
From a systematic review, Chris Beyrer and colleagues conclude that men who have sex with men in the Americas, Asia, and Africa have a markedly greater risk of being HIV-infected than does the general population.
Editors' Summary
Background.
AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) first emerged in the early 1980s among gay men living in New York and California. But, as the disease rapidly spread around the world, it became clear that AIDS also affected heterosexual men and women. Now, a quarter of a century later, 40 million people are infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the organism that causes AIDS. HIV is most often spread by having unprotected sex with an infected partner and in sub-Saharan Africa, the region most badly hit by HIV/AIDS, heterosexual transmission predominates. However, globally, 5%–10% of all HIV infections are thought to be in men who have sex with men (MSM, a term that encompasses gay, bisexual, transgendered, and heterosexual men who sometimes have sex with men), and in several high-income countries, including the US, male-to-male sexual contact remains the most important HIV transmission route.
Why Was This Study Done?
In the US, the MSM population is visible and there is considerable awareness about the risks of HIV transmission associated with sex between men. In many other countries, MSM are much less visible. They remain invisible because they fear discrimination, stigmatization (being considered socially unacceptable), or arrest—sex between men is illegal in 85 countries. Consequently, MSM are often under-represented in HIV surveillance systems and in prevention and care programs. If the AIDS epidemic is going to be halted, much more needs to be known about HIV prevalence (the proportion of the population that is infected) among MSM. In this study, the researchers have done a systematic review (a type of research where the results of existing studies are brought together) on published reports of HIV prevalence among MSM in low- and middle-income countries to get a better picture of the global epidemic of HIV in this population.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers found 83 published studies that reported HIV prevalence in 38 low- and middle-income countries in Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Eastern Europe. When the results were pooled—in what statisticians call a meta-analysis—MSM were found to have a 19.3-times greater chance of being infected with HIV than the general population. This is described as a pooled odds ratio (OR) of 19.3. The researchers also did several subgroup analyses where they asked whether factors such as injection drug use (another risk factor for HIV transmission), per capita income, geographical region, or the HIV prevalence in the general population were associated with differential risk (increase in odds) of HIV infection compared to the general population. They found, for example, that in countries where the prevalence of HIV in the general population was very low (less than 1 adult in 1,000 infected) the pooled OR for MSM compared to the general population was 58.4; where it was high (more than 1 adult in 20 infected), the pooled OR for MSM was 9.6.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that MSM living in low- to middle-income countries have a greater risk of HIV infection than the general populations of these countries. The subgroup analyses indicate that the high HIV prevalence among MSM is not limited to any one region or income level or to countries with any specific HIV prevalence or injection drug use level. Although the small number and design of the studies included in the meta-analysis may affect the numerical accuracy of these findings, the clear trend toward a higher HIV prevalence of among MSM suggests that HIV surveillance efforts should be expanded to include MSM in those countries where they are currently ignored. Efforts should also be made to include MSM in HIV prevention programs and to improve the efficacy of these programs by investigating the cultural, behavioral, social, and public policy factors that underlie the high HIV prevalence among MSM. By increasing surveillance, research, and prevention among MSM in low- to middle-income countries, it should be possible to curb HIV transmission in this marginalized population and reduce the global burden of HIV.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040339.
The International Lesbian and Gay Association provides a world legal map on legislation affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission provides a page called Off the Map: How HIV/AIDS Programming is Failing Same-Sex Practicing People in Africa
The American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) has launched their MSM initiative, which is focused on providing support to front-line community groups working on providing services and doing research focused on HIV among MSM in lower income-settings
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including a list of organizations that provide information for gay men and MSM
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on HIV, AIDS, and men who have sex with men
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on HIV/AIDS and on HIV/AIDS among men who have sex with men (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040339
PMCID: PMC2100144  PMID: 18052602
2.  Teaching lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender health in a South African health sciences faculty: addressing the gap 
BMC Medical Education  2013;13:174.
Background
People who identity as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) have specific health needs. Sexual orientation and gender identity are social determinants of health, as homophobia and heteronormativity persist as prejudices in society. LGBT patients often experience discrimination and prejudice in health care settings. While recent South African policies recognise the need for providing LGBT specific health care, no curricula for teaching about LGBT health related issues exist in South African health sciences faculties. This study aimed to determine the extent to which LGBT health related content is taught in the University of Cape Town’s medical curriculum.
Methods
A curriculum mapping exercise was conducted through an online survey of all academic staff at the UCT health sciences faculty, determining LGBT health related content, pedagogical methodology and assessment.
Results
127 academics, across 31 divisions and research units in the Faculty of Health Sciences, responded to the survey, of which 93 completed the questionnaire. Ten taught some content related to LGBT health in the MBChB curriculum. No LGBT health related content was taught in the allied health sciences curricula. The MBChB curriculum provided no opportunity for students to challenge their own attitudes towards LGBT patients, and key LGBT health topics such as safer sex, mental health, substance abuse and adolescent health were not addressed.
Conclusion
At present, UCTs health sciences curricula do not adequately address LGBT specific health issues. Where LGBT health related content is taught in the MBChB curriculum, it is largely discretionary, unsystematic and not incorporated into the overarching structure. Coordinated initiatives to integrate LGBT health related content into all health sciences curricula should be supported, and follow an approach that challenges students to develop professional attitudes and behaviour concerning care for patients from LGBT backgrounds, as well as providing them with specific LGBT health knowledge. Educating health professions students on the health needs of LGBT people is essential to improving this population’s health by providing competent and non-judgmental care.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-13-174
PMCID: PMC3877956  PMID: 24373219
LGBT health; Health professions education; Heteronormativity; Homophobia; South Africa
3.  An Intervention to Reduce HIV Risk Behavior of Substance-Using Men Who Have Sex with Men: A Two-Group Randomized Trial with a Nonrandomized Third Group 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(8):e1000329.
In a randomized trial of a behavioral intervention among substance-using men who have sex with men, aimed at reducing sexual risk behavior, Mansergh and colleagues fail to find evidence of a reduction in risk from the intervention.
Background
Substance use during sex is associated with sexual risk behavior among men who have sex with men (MSM), and MSM continue to be the group at highest risk for incident HIV in the United States. The objective of this study is to test the efficacy of a group-based, cognitive-behavioral intervention to reduce risk behavior of substance-using MSM, compared to a randomized attention-control group and a nonrandomized standard HIV-testing group.
Methods and Findings
Participants (n = 1,686) were enrolled in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco and randomized to a cognitive-behavioral intervention or attention-control comparison. The nonrandomized group received standard HIV counseling and testing. Intervention group participants received six 2-h group sessions focused on reducing substance use and sexual risk behavior. Attention-control group participants received six 2-h group sessions of videos and discussion of MSM community issues unrelated to substance use, sexual risk, and HIV/AIDS. All three groups received HIV counseling and testing at baseline. The sample reported high-risk behavior during the past 3 mo prior to their baseline visit: 67% reported unprotected anal sex, and 77% reported substance use during their most recent anal sex encounter with a nonprimary partner. The three groups significantly (p<0.05) reduced risk behavior (e.g., unprotected anal sex reduced by 32% at 12-mo follow-up), but were not different (p>0.05) from each other at 3-, 6-, and 12-mo follow-up. Outcomes for the 2-arm comparisons were not significantly different at 12-mo follow-up (e.g., unprotected anal sex, odds ratio = 1.14, confidence interval = 0.86–1.51), nor at earlier time points. Similar results were found for each outcome variable in both 2- and 3-arm comparisons.
Conclusions
These results for reducing sexual risk behavior of substance-using MSM are consistent with results of intervention trials for other populations, which collectively suggest critical challenges for the field of HIV behavioral interventions. Several mechanisms may contribute to statistically indistinguishable reductions in risk outcomes by trial group. More explicit debate is needed in the behavioral intervention field about appropriate scientific designs and methods. As HIV prevention increasingly competes for behavior-change attention alongside other “chronic” diseases and mental health issues, new approaches may better resonate with at-risk groups.
Trial Registration
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00153361
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
AIDS first emerged in the early 1980s among gay men living in the US. As the disease spread around the world, it became clear that AIDS also affects heterosexual men and women. Now, three decades on, more than 30 million people are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. HIV is most often spread by having unprotected sex with an infected partner and, globally, most sexual transmission of HIV now occurs during heterosexual sex. However, 5%–10% of all new HIV infections still occur in men who have sex with men (MSM, a term that encompasses gay, bisexual, transgendered, and heterosexual men who sometimes have sex with men) and, in several high-income countries, male-to-male sexual contact remains the most important HIV transmission route. In the US, for example, more than half of the approximately 50,000 people who become infected with HIV every year do so through male-to-male sexual contact.
Why Was This Study Done?
In countries where MSM are the group at highest risk of HIV infection, any intervention that reduces HIV transmission in MSM should have a major effect on the overall HIV infection rate. Among MSM, sexual behaviors that increase the risk of HIV infection (for example, not using a condom, having anal sex, having sex with a partner of unknown HIV status, and having sex with many partners) are associated with the use of alcohol and noninjection drugs (for example, inhaled amyl nitrite or poppers) during or shortly before sexual encounters. In this study (Project MIX), the researchers investigate whether a group-based behavioral intervention reduces sexual risk behavior in substance-using MSM.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers recruited substance-using MSM from four US cities who had had risky sex at least once in the past 6 months. Participants were randomized to a cognitive-behavioral intervention or to an attention-control group; a third, nonrandomized group of MSM formed a standard HIV counseling and testing only group. All the groups had HIV counseling and testing at the start of the study and completed a questionnaire about their substance use and sexual risk behavior during their most recent anal sex encounter. The cognitive-behavior group then received six weekly 2-hour group sessions focused on reducing substance use and sexual risk behavior by helping the men change their thinking (cognition) and behavior regarding sexual risk taking. The attention-control group received six group sessions about general MSM issues such as relationships, excluding discussion of substance use, and sexual risk behavior. The participants in both of these groups completed the questionnaire about their substance use and sexual risk behavior again at 3, 6, and 12 months after the group sessions; the participants in the standard HIV counseling and testing group completed the questionnaire again about 5 months after completing the first questionnaire (to control for the time taken by the other two groups to complete the intervention). At baseline, about 67% of the participants reported unprotected anal sex and 77% reported substance use during their most recent anal sex encounter with a nonprimary partner. At the 3-month follow-up, the incidence of sexual risk behavior had fallen to about 43% in all three groups; the incidence of substance use during sex had fallen to about 50%. Risk taking and substance use remained at these levels in the intervention and attention-control groups at the later follow-up time points.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that this cognitive-behavioral intervention is no better at reducing sexual risk taking among substance-using MSM than is an unrelated video-discussion group or standard HIV counseling and testing. One explanation for this negative result might be that brief counseling is especially effective with people who are ready for a change such as MSM willing to enroll in an intervention trial of this type. Alternatively, just being in the trial might have encouraged all the participants to self-report reduced risk behavior. Thus, alternative scientific designs and methods might be needed to find behavioral interventions that can effectively reduce HIV transmission among substance-using MSM and other people at high risk of HIV infection. Importantly, however, these findings raise the question of whether more extensive, multilevel interventions or broader lifestyle and positive health approaches (rather than single-level or single-subject behavioral interventions) might be needed to reduce sexual risk behavior among substance-using MSM.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000329.
Information is available from the US Department of Health and Human Services on HIV prevention programs, research, and policy
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on HIV transmission and transmission in gay men and other MSM, on substance abuse and HIV/AIDS, and on safer sex
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS nonprofit, on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on HIV, AIDS, and men who have sex with men and on drink, drugs, and sex (in English and Spanish)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also have information for the public and for professionals about HIV/AIDS among men who have sex with men (in English and Spanish)
The US National Institute on Drug Abuse has information on HIV/AIDS and drug abuse, including a resource aimed at educating teenagers about the link between drug abuse and the spread of HIV in the US (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000329
PMCID: PMC2927550  PMID: 20811491
4.  Are HIV Epidemics among Men Who Have Sex with Men Emerging in the Middle East and North Africa?: A Systematic Review and Data Synthesis 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(8):e1000444.
A systematic review by Laith Abu-Raddad and colleagues collates and analyzes the epidemiology of HIV among men who have sex with men in Middle Eastern and North African countries.
Background
Men who have sex with men (MSM) bear a disproportionately higher burden of HIV infection than the general population. MSM in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are a largely hidden population because of a prevailing stigma towards this type of sexual behavior, thereby limiting the ability to assess infection transmission patterns among them. It is widely perceived that data are virtually nonexistent on MSM and HIV in this region. The objective of this review was to delineate, for the first time, the evidence on the epidemiology of HIV among MSM in MENA.
Methods and Findings
This was a systematic review of all biological, behavioral, and other related data on HIV and MSM in MENA. Sources of data included PubMed (Medline), international organizations' reports and databases, country-level reports and databases including governmental and nongovernmental organization publications, and various other institutional documents. This review showed that onsiderable data are available on MSM and HIV in MENA. While HIV prevalence continues at low levels among different MSM groups, HIV epidemics appear to be emerging in at least few countries, with a prevalence reaching up to 28% among certain MSM groups. By 2008, the contribution of MSM transmission to the total HIV notified cases increased and exceeded 25% in several countries. The high levels of risk behavior (4–14 partners on average in the last six months among different MSM populations) and of biomarkers of risks (such as herpes simplex virus type 2 at 3%–54%), the overall low rate of consistent condom use (generally below 25%), the relative frequency of male sex work (20%–76%), and the substantial overlap with heterosexual risk behavior and injecting drug use suggest potential for further spread.
Conclusions
This systematic review and data synthesis indicate that HIV epidemics appear to be emerging among MSM in at least a few MENA countries and could already be in a concentrated state among several MSM groups. There is an urgent need to expand HIV surveillance and access to HIV testing, prevention, and treatment services in a rapidly narrowing window of opportunity to prevent the worst of HIV transmission among MSM in the Middle East and North Africa.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
AIDS first emerged in the early 1980s among gay men living in the US. But, as the disease rapidly spread, it became clear that AIDS also affects heterosexual men and women. Now three decades on, more than 30 million people are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. HIV is most often spread by having unprotected sex with an infected partner and, globally, most sexual transmission of HIV now occurs during heterosexual sex. However, 5%–10% of all new HIV infections still occur in men who have sex with men (MSM, a term that encompasses homosexual, bisexual, and transgender men, and heterosexual men who sometimes have sex with men). In some countries, male-to-male sexual contact remains the most important transmission route. Moreover, although the global prevalence of HIV infection (the proportion the world's population infected with HIV) has stabilized, the prevalence of HIV infection among MSM seems to be increasing in multiple countries and new and resurgent HIV epidemics among MSM populations are being frequently reported.
Why Was This Study Done?
In the US and the UK, the MSM population is visible and has helped to raise awareness about the risks of HIV transmission through male-to-male sexual contact. In many other countries, MSM are much less visible, fearing discrimination, stigmatization (being considered socially unacceptable) or arrest. In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA, a geographical region that encompasses countries that share historical, socio-cultural, linguistic and religious characteristics), MSM are the most hidden HIV risk group. Consequently, very little is known about HIV transmission patterns among MSM in MENA. Indeed, it is widely thought that there is virtually no information available on the epidemiology (causes, distribution, and control) of HIV among MSM in this region. In this systematic review and data synthesis, the researchers use predefined search criteria to identify all the published and unpublished data on the epidemiology of HIV among MSM in MENA and combine (synthesize) these data to produce a coherent picture of the HIV epidemic in this potentially key group of people for HIV transmission in this region.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 26 articles and 51 other country-level reports and sources of data that included data on the prevalence of male-to-male sexual contact, HIV transmission, levels of high-risk behavior, and the extent of knowledge about HIV among MSM in MENA. The prevalence of HIV infection among MSM was low in most countries but high in others. For example, the infection rate in Pakistan was 27.6% among one MSM group. Importantly, there was some evidence of increasing HIV prevalence and emerging epidemics among MSM in the region. Thus, by 2008, MSM transmission was responsible for more than a quarter of notified cases of HIV in several countries. Worryingly, MSM were involved in several types of HIV-related high risk behavior. For example, they had, on average, between 4 and 14 sexual partners in the past six months, their rates of consistent condom use were generally below 25% and, in some countries, MSM frequently reported injecting drug use, another common mode of HIV transmission. In addition, 20%–75.5% of MSM exchanged sex for money and contact between MSM and female sex workers and other female sexual partners was often common. Finally, although the level of basic knowledge about HIV/AIDS was high, the level of comprehensive knowledge was limited with a high proportion of MSM perceiving their risk of contracting HIV as low.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that there is considerable and increasing data about HIV transmission and risk behavior among MSM in MENA. However, the quality of this evidence varies greatly. Little has been collected over time in individual populations and, because only the visible part of the MSM populations in many MENA countries has been sampled, these findings may not be representative of all MSM in this region. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that HIV epidemics are emerging among MSM in several MENA countries. Importantly, the high levels of risk behaviors practiced by many MSM in MENA mean that MSM could become the pivotal risk group for HIV transmission in this region in the next decade. There is, therefore, an urgent need to expand HIV surveillance and access to HIV testing, prevention and treatment services among MSM in this region to limit the size of the HIV epidemic.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000444.
Information about the status of the HIV epidemic in the Middle East and North Africa can be found in the World Bank/UNAIDS/WHO report Characterizing the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Middle East and North Africa: Time for strategic action
Information about the global HIV epidemic among men who have sex with men can be found in the World Bank report The Global HIV Epidemics among Men Who Have Sex with Men
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on HIV transmission and transmission in gay men and other MSM and on safer sex
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on HIV, AIDS and men who have sex with men and on HIV and AIDS prevention (in English and Spanish)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also have information about HIV/AIDS among men who have sex with men (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000444
PMCID: PMC3149074  PMID: 21829329
5.  Associations between Intimate Partner Violence and Health among Men Who Have Sex with Men: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(3):e1001609.
Ana Maria Buller and colleagues review 19 studies and estimate the associations between the experience and perpetration of intimate partner violence and various health conditions and sexual risk behaviors among men who have sex with men.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Intimate partner violence (IPV) among men who have sex with men (MSM) is a significant problem. Little is known about the association between IPV and health for MSM. We aimed to estimate the association between experience and perpetration of IPV, and various health conditions and sexual risk behaviours among MSM.
Methods and Findings
We searched 13 electronic databases up to 23 October 2013 to identify research studies reporting the odds of health conditions or sexual risk behaviours for MSM experiencing or perpetrating IPV. Nineteen studies with 13,797 participants were included in the review. Random effects meta-analyses were performed to estimate pooled odds ratios (ORs). Exposure to IPV as a victim was associated with increased odds of substance use (OR = 1.88, 95% CIOR 1.59–2.22, I2 = 46.9%, 95% CII2 0%–78%), being HIV positive (OR = 1.46, 95% CIOR 1.26–1.69, I2 = 0.0%, 95% CII2 0%–62%), reporting depressive symptoms (OR = 1.52, 95% CIOR 1.24–1.86, I2 = 9.9%, 95% CII2 0%–91%), and engagement in unprotected anal sex (OR = 1.72, 95% CIOR 1.44–2.05, I2 = 0.0%, 95% CII2 0%–68%). Perpetration of IPV was associated with increased odds of substance use (OR = 1.99, 95% CIOR 1.33–2.99, I2 = 73.1%). These results should be interpreted with caution because of methodological weaknesses such as the lack of validated tools to measure IPV in this population and the diversity of recall periods and key outcomes in the identified studies.
Conclusions
MSM who are victims of IPV are more likely to engage in substance use, suffer from depressive symptoms, be HIV positive, and engage in unprotected anal sex. MSM who perpetrate IPV are more likely to engage in substance use. Our results highlight the need for research into effective interventions to prevent IPV in MSM, as well as the importance of providing health care professionals with training in how to address issues of IPV among MSM and the need to raise awareness of local and national support services.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Intimate partner violence (IPV, also called domestic violence) is a common and widespread problem. Globally, nearly a third of women are affected by IPV at some time in their life, but the prevalence of IPV (the proportion of the population affected by IPV) varies widely between countries. In central sub-Saharan Africa, for example, nearly two-thirds of women experience IPV during their lifetime, whereas in East Asia only one-sixth of women are affected. IPV is defined as physical, sexual, or emotional harm that is perpetrated on an individual by a current or former partner or spouse. Physical violence includes hitting, kicking, and other types of physical force; sexual violence means forcing a partner to take part in a sex act when the partner does not consent; and emotional abuse includes threatening a partner by, for example, stalking them or preventing them from seeing their family. The adverse effects of IPV for women include physical injury, depression and suicidal behaviour, and sexual and reproductive health problems such as HIV infection and unwanted pregnancies.
Why Was This Study Done?
IPV affects men as well as women. Men can be subjected to IPV either by a female partner or by a male partner in the case of men who have sex with men (MSM, a term that encompasses homosexual, bisexual, and transgender men, and heterosexual men who sometimes have sex with men). Recent reviews suggest that the prevalence of IPV in same-sex couples is as high as the prevalence of IPV for women in opposite-sex relationships: reported lifetime prevalences of IPV in homosexual male relationships range between 15.4% and 51%. Little is known, however, about the adverse health effects of IPV on MSM. It is important to understand how IPV affects the health of MSM so that appropriate services and interventions can be provided to support MSM who experience IPV. In this systematic review (a study that identifies all the research on a given topic using predefined criteria) and meta-analysis (a study that combines the results of several studies using statistical methods), the researchers investigate the associations between the experience and perpetration of IPV and various health conditions and sexual risk behaviours among MSM.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 19 studies that investigated associations between IPV and various health conditions or sexual risk behaviours (for example, unprotected anal sex, a risk factor for HIV infection) among MSM. The associations were expressed as odds ratios (ORs); an OR represents the odds (chances) that an outcome will occur given a particular exposure, compared to the odds of the outcome occurring in the absence of that exposure. The researchers estimated pooled ORs from the data in the individual studies using meta-analysis. The pooled lifetime prevalence of experiencing any IPV (which was measured in six studies) was 48%. Exposure to IPV as a victim was associated with an increased risk of substance (alcohol or drug) use (OR = 1.88, data from nine studies), reporting depressive symptoms (OR = 1.52, data from three studies), being HIV positive (OR = 1.46, data from ten studies), and engagement in unprotected sex (OR = 1.72, data from eight studies). Perpetration of IPV was associated with an increased risk of substance abuse (OR = 1.99, data from six studies).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that MSM frequently experience IPV and that exposure to IPV is associated with several adverse health conditions and sexual risk behaviours. There were insufficient data to estimate the lifetime prevalence of IPV perpetration among MSM, but these findings also reveal an association between IPV perpetration and substance use. The accuracy of these findings is limited by heterogeneity (variability) between the studies included in the meta-analyses, by the design of these studies, and by the small number of studies. Despite these and other limitations, these findings highlight the need to undertake research to identify interventions to prevent IPV among MSM and to learn more about the health effects of IPV among MSM. They highlight the importance of health care professionals being aware that IPV is a problem for MSM and of training these professionals to assess MSM for IPV. Finally, these results highlight the need to improve the availability and effectiveness of support services to which health care professionals can refer MSM experiencing or perpetrating IPV.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001609.
The World Health Organization provides detailed information on intimate partner violence
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information about IPV and a fact sheet on understanding IPV that includes links to further resources
The UK National Health Service Choices website has a webpage about domestic violence, which includes descriptions of personal experiences
The US National Domestic Violence Hotline provides confidential help and support to people experiencing IPV, including MSM; its website includes personal stories of IPV
The US Gay Men's Domestic Violence Project/GLBTQ Domestic Violence Project provides support and services to MSM experiencing IPV; its website includes some personal stories
The UK not-for-profit organization Respect runs two advice lines: the Men's Advice Line provides advice and support for men experiencing domestic violence and abuse and the Respect Phoneline provides advice for domestic violence perpetrators and for professionals who would like further information about services for those using violence/abuse in their intimate partner relationships
The UK not-for-profit organization ManKind Initiative also provides support for male victims of IPV
The UK not-for-profit organization Broken Rainbow UK provides help and support for lesbians and MSM experiencing IPV
MedlinePlus provides links to other resources about domestic violence (in English and Spanish)
The UK charity Galop gives advice and support to people who have experienced biphobia, homophobia, transphobia, sexual violence, or domestic abuse
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001609
PMCID: PMC3942318  PMID: 24594975
6.  Sociodemographic and sexual behavior characteristics of an online MSM sample in Guangdong, China 
AIDS care  2013;26(5):648-652.
Public health research and interventions often assume that men who have sex with men (MSM) who use the Internet in China have similar characteristics to those in Western countries, though with little empirical evidence. This study aimed to describe and examine the sociodemographic and basic sexual behavioral characteristics of an online sample of MSM in Guangdong, China. In 2010, a total of 1100 MSM were recruited from an lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT)-oriented website and were asked about their sociodemographic and sexual behavior characteristics. The majority of the participants (77.9%) self-identified as homosexual, and the mean age was 30.0 years (SD = 6.7). About 80% of the participants had attained a college degree and only 4.8% were unemployed. About 60% had a monthly salary of more than CNY 3000 (476 USD), and more than 10% were married. The majority (71.7%) had used condoms in the last anal sex. Nearly half of the participants have never been tested for HIV or other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) (47.3% and 47.7%, respectively). More than 80% were willing to be contacted by researchers after the survey. Findings indicate that the sociodemographic characteristics of Chinese MSM who use the Internet are relatively similar to those in the Western countries. However, Chinese MSM are less likely to self-identify as homosexual and be tested for HIV and other STIs than Western MSM. On a positive note, Chinese MSM would be likely to engage in e-technology research showing potential feasibility of an online HIV/STI intervention.
doi:10.1080/09540121.2013.844760
PMCID: PMC4075317  PMID: 24124988
Chinese MSM; Internet; intervention; demographics; HIV testing
7.  Prevalence of Consensual Male–Male Sex and Sexual Violence, and Associations with HIV in South Africa: A Population-Based Cross-Sectional Study 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(6):e1001472.
Using a method that offered complete privacy to participants, Rachel Jewkes and colleagues conducted a survey among South African men about their lifetime same-sex experiences.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
In sub-Saharan Africa the population prevalence of men who have sex with men (MSM) is unknown, as is the population prevalence of male-on-male sexual violence, and whether male-on-male sexual violence may relate to HIV risk. This paper describes lifetime prevalence of consensual male–male sexual behavior and male-on-male sexual violence (victimization and perpetration) in two South African provinces, socio-demographic factors associated with these experiences, and associations with HIV serostatus.
Methods and Findings
In a cross-sectional study conducted in 2008, men aged 18–49 y from randomly selected households in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces provided anonymous survey data and dried blood spots for HIV serostatus assessment. Interviews were completed in 1,737 of 2,298 (75.6%) of enumerated and eligible households. From these households, 1,705 men (97.1%) provided data on lifetime history of same-sex experiences, and 1,220 (70.2%) also provided dried blood spots for HIV testing. 5.4% (n = 92) of participants reported a lifetime history of any consensual sexual activity with another man; 9.6% (n = 164) reported any sexual victimization by a man, and 3.0% (n = 51) reported perpetrating sexual violence against another man. 85.0% (n = 79) of men with a history of consensual sex with men reported having a current female partner, and 27.7% (n = 26) reported having a current male partner. Of the latter, 80.6% (n = 21/26) also reported having a female partner. Men reporting a history of consensual male–male sexual behavior are more likely to have been a victim of male-on-male sexual violence (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 7.24; 95% CI 4.26–12.3), and to have perpetrated sexual violence against another man (aOR = 3.10; 95% CI 1.22–7.90). Men reporting consensual oral/anal sex with a man were more likely to be HIV+ than men with no such history (aOR = 3.11; 95% CI 1.24–7.80). Men who had raped a man were more likely to be HIV+ than non-perpetrators (aOR = 3.58; 95% CI 1.17–10.9).
Conclusions
In this sample, one in 20 men (5.4%) reported lifetime consensual sexual contact with a man, while about one in ten (9.6%) reported experience of male-on-male sexual violence victimization. Men who reported having had sex with men were more likely to be HIV+, as were men who reported perpetrating sexual violence towards other men. Whilst there was no direct measure of male–female concurrency (having overlapping sexual relationships with men and women), the data suggest that this may have been common. These findings suggest that HIV prevention messages regarding male–male sex in South Africa should be mainstreamed with prevention messages for the general population, and sexual health interventions and HIV prevention interventions for South African men should explicitly address male-on-male sexual violence.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
AIDS first emerged in the early 1980s among gay men living in the US, but it soon became clear that AIDS also infects heterosexual men and women. Now, three decades on, globally, 34 million people (two-thirds of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa and half of whom are women) are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and 2.5 million people become infected every year. HIV is most often spread by having unprotected sex with an infected partner, and most sexual transmission of HIV now occurs during heterosexual sex. However, 5%–10% of all new HIV infections still occur in men who have sex with men (MSM; homosexual, bisexual, and transgender men, and heterosexual men who sometimes have consensual sex with men). Moreover, in the concentrated HIV epidemics of high-income countries (epidemics in which the prevalence of HIV infection is more than 5% in at-risk populations such as sex workers but less than 1% in the general population), male-to-male sexual contact remains the most important transmission route, and MSM often have a higher prevalence of HIV infection than heterosexual men.
Why Was This Study Done?
By contrast to high-income countries, HIV epidemics in sub-Saharan Africa are generalized—the prevalence of HIV infection is 1% or more in the general population. Because male-to-male sexual behavior is criminalized in many African countries and because homosexuality is widely stigmatized, little is known about the prevalence of consensual male–male sexual behavior in sub-Saharan Africa. This information and a better understanding of male–female sexual concurrency (having overlapping sexual relationships with men and women) and of how male-to-male transmission contributes to generalized HIV epidemics is needed to inform the design of HIV prevention strategies for use in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, very little is known about male-on-male sexual violence. Such violence is potentially important to study because we know that male-on-female violence is associated with increased HIV risk for both victims and perpetrators. In this cross-sectional study (an investigation that measures population characteristics at a single time point), the researchers use data from a population-based household survey to investigate the lifetime prevalence of consensual male–male sexual behavior and male-on-male sexual violence (victimization and perpetration) among men in South Africa and the association of these experiences with HIV infection.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
About 1,700 adult men from randomly selected households in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces of South Africa self-completed a survey that included questions about their lifetime history of same-sex experiences using audio-enhanced personal digital assistants, a data collection method that provided a totally private and anonymous environment for the disclosure of illegal and stigmatized behavior; 1,220 of them also provided dried blood spots for HIV testing. Ninety-two men (5.4% of the participants) reported consensual sexual activity (for example, anal or oral sex) with another man at some time during their life; 9.6% of the men reported that they had been forced to have sex with another man (sexual victimization), and 3% reported that they had perpetrated sexual violence against another man. Most of the men who reported consensual sex with men, including those with current male partners, reported that they had a current female partner. Men with a history of consensual male–male sexual behavior were more likely to have been a victim or perpetrator of male-on-male sexual violence than men without a history of such experiences. Finally, men who reported consensual oral or anal sex with a man were more likely to be HIV+ than men without such a history, and perpetrators of male-on-male sexual violence were more likely to be HIV+ than non-perpetrators.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide new information about male–male sexual behaviors, male-on-male sexual violence, male–female concurrency, and HIV prevalence among men in two South African provinces. The precision of these findings is likely to be affected by the small numbers of men reporting a history of consensual male–male sexual behavior and of male-on-male sexual violence. Importantly, because the study was cross-sectional, these findings cannot indicate whether the association between consensual male–male sexual behaviors and increased risk of male-on-male sexual violence is causal. Moreover, these findings may not be generalizable to other regions of South Africa or to other African countries. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that information about the risks of male–male sexual behaviors should be included in HIV prevention strategies targeted at the general population in South Africa and that HIV prevention interventions for South African men should explicitly address male-on-male sexual violence. Similar HIV prevention strategies may also be suitable for other African countries, but are likely to succeed only in countries that have, like South Africa, decriminalized consensual homosexual behavior.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001472.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Jerome Singh
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
NAM/aidsmap provides basic information about HIV/AIDS, including summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on HIV and men who have sex with men, on HIV prevention, and on AIDS in Africa (in English and Spanish)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has information about HIV/AIDS among men who have sex with men (in English and Spanish)
Patient stories about living with HIV/AIDS are available through Avert; the charity website Healthtalkonline also provides personal stories about living with HIV
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001472
PMCID: PMC3708702  PMID: 23853554
8.  Gender, sexuality and the discursive representation of access and equity in health services literature: implications for LGBT communities 
Background
This article considers how health services access and equity documents represent the problem of access to health services and what the effects of that representation might be for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities. We conducted a critical discourse analysis on selected access and equity documents using a gender-based diversity framework as determined by two objectives: 1) to identify dominant and counter discourses in health services access and equity literature; and 2) to develop understanding of how particular discourses impact the inclusion, or not, of LGBT communities in health services access and equity frameworks.The analysis was conducted in response to public health and clinical research that has documented barriers to health services access for LGBT communities including institutionalized heterosexism, biphobia, and transphobia, invisibility and lack of health provider knowledge and comfort. The analysis was also conducted as the first step of exploring LGBT access issues in home care services for LGBT populations in Ontario, Canada.
Methods
A critical discourse analysis of selected health services access and equity documents, using a gender-based diversity framework, was conducted to offer insight into dominant and counter discourses underlying health services access and equity initiatives.
Results
A continuum of five discourses that characterize the health services access and equity literature were identified including two dominant discourses: 1) multicultural discourse, and 2) diversity discourse; and three counter discourses: 3) social determinants of health (SDOH) discourse; 4) anti-oppression (AOP) discourse; and 5) citizen/social rights discourse.
Conclusions
The analysis offers a continuum of dominant and counter discourses on health services access and equity as determined from a gender-based diversity perspective. The continuum of discourses offers a framework to identify and redress organizational assumptions about, and ideological commitments to, sexual and gender diversity and health services access and equity. Thus, the continuum of discourses may serve as an important element of a health care organization's access and equity framework for the evaluation of access to good quality care for diverse LGBT populations. More specfically, the analysis offers four important points of consideration in relation to the development of a health services access and equity framework.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-10-40
PMCID: PMC3195712  PMID: 21957894
9.  Sex between men in the context of HIV: The AIDS 2008 Jonathan Mann Memorial Lecture in health and human rights 
Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) have been among the most affected populations by HIV since the AIDS pandemic was first identified in the 1980s. Evidence from a wide range of studies show that these men remain at the highest risk for HIV acquisition in both developed and developing countries, and that despite three decades of evidence of their vulnerability to HIV, they remain under-served and under-studied. Prevention strategies targeted to MSM are markedly under-funded in most countries, leading to limited access to health services including prevention, treatment, and care. We explore the global epidemic among MSM in 2008, the limited funding available globally to respond to these epidemics, and the human rights contexts and factors which drive HIV spread and limit HIV responses for these men.
What do we mean by the term MSM? MSM is a construct from the 1990s that tries to capture behavior and not identity. It was crafted to avoid stigmatizing and culturally laden terms such as gay or bisexual, which do not capture the wide diversity of orientations, sexual practices, cultures, and contextual settings in which male same-sex behaviors occur, and where HIV transmission and acquisition risks are centered. MSM includes both gay and non-gay identified men, bisexual men, and MSM who identify themselves as heterosexuals. It also includes men engaging in "situational" sex between men, such as can occur in prisons, schools, militaries or other environments; and it includes male sex workers who may be of any orientation but are often at very high risk for HIV. MSM may include some biologically male transgender persons, though some do not identify as male. And MSM includes a wide array of traditional and local terms worldwide–with enormous cultural diversity in Asia, Africa, Latin America and elsewhere. We use the term MSM here at its most inclusive.
doi:10.1186/1758-2652-11-9
PMCID: PMC2631526  PMID: 19108725
10.  Is tobacco a gay issue? Interviews with leaders of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community 
Culture, health & sexuality  2008;10(2):143-157.
This study examined the extent of tobacco industry funding of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organisations and whether leaders of these organisations thought tobacco was a priority health issue for their community. We interviewed leaders of 74 LGBT organisations and publications in the USA, reflecting a wide variety of groups. Twenty-two percent said they had accepted tobacco industry funding and few (24%) identified tobacco as a priority issue. Most leaders did not perceive tobacco as an issue relevant to LGBT identity. They saw smoking as a personal choice and individual right rather than as a health crisis fuelled by industry activities. As such, they were reluctant to judge a legal industry, fearing it might lead to having to evaluate other potential funders. They saw tobacco control as divisive, potentially alienating their peers who smoke. The minority who embraced tobacco control saw the industry as culpable and viewed their own roles as protecting the community from all harms, not just those specific to the gay community. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender tobacco-control advocates should reframe smoking as an unhealthy response to the stresses of homophobia to persuade leaders that tobacco control is central to LGBT health.
doi:10.1080/13691050701656284
PMCID: PMC2789682  PMID: 18247208
LGBT; community health; tobacco control; tobacco industry; licit and illicit substances
11.  Reporting of Intimate Partner Violence among Men Who Have Sex with Men in an Online Survey 
Objective:
A growing body of literature suggests that intimate partner violence (IPV) occurs within same-sex relationships and that members of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) community face a number of unique challenges in accessing IPV-related services. This paper examines the use of an online survey, marketed through a popular social networking site, to collect data on the experience and perpetration of IPV among men who have sex with men (MSM) in the United States.
Methods:
Internet-using MSM were recruited through selective placement of banner advertisements on MySpace.com. Participants were eligible for the baseline survey if they were males ≥ 18 years of age, and reported at least one male sex partner in the last 12 months. In total 16,597 men responded to the ad, of which 11,681 were eligible for the study, and 5,602 completed the questionnaire; 543 men completed the follow-up survey, which included questions on the experience and perpetration of IPV. The final analysis sample was 402.
Results:
The prevalence of violence among the sample was relatively high: 11.8% of men reported physical violence from a current male partner, and about 4% reported experiencing coerced sex. Reporting of perpetration of violence against a partner was generally lower, with approximately 7% reporting perpetrating physical violence and less than 1% reporting perpetration of sexual violence.
Conclusion:
The results presented here find lower levels of experiencing both physical and sexual IPV than have been shown in previous studies, yet show relatively high levels of reporting of perpetration of IPV. Collecting IPV data through surveys administered through social networking sites is feasible and provides a new opportunity to reach currently overlooked populations in IPV research.
PMCID: PMC2941360  PMID: 20882143
12.  Sexual Orientation Disparities in Sexually Transmitted Infections: Examining the Intersection Between Sexual Identity and Sexual Behavior 
Archives of sexual behavior  2012;42(2):225-236.
The terms MSM (men who have sex with men) and WSW (women who have sex with women) have been used with increasing frequency in the public health literature to examine sexual orientation disparities in sexual health. These categories, however, do not allow researchers to examine potential differences in sexually transmitted infection (STI) risk by sexual orientation identity. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, this study investigated the relationship between self-reported STIs and both sexual orientation identity and sexual behaviors. Additionally, this study examined the mediating role of victimization and STI risk behaviors on the relationship between sexual orientation and self-reported STIs. STI risk was found to be elevated among heterosexual-WSW and bisexual women, whether they report same-sex partners or not, whereas gay-identified WSW were less likely to report an STI compared to heterosexual women with opposite sex relationships only. Among males, heterosexual-identified MSM did not have a greater likelihood of reporting an STI diagnosis; rather, STI risk was concentrated among gay and bisexual identified men who reported both male and female sexual partners. STI risk behaviors mediated the STI disparities among both males and females, and victimization partially mediated STI disparities among female participants. These results suggest that relying solely on behavior-based categories, such as MSM and WSW, may mischaracterize STI disparities by sexual orientation.
doi:10.1007/s10508-012-9902-1
PMCID: PMC3575167  PMID: 22350122
Sexual orientation identity; same-sex behavior; STIs; victimization; gender
13.  Globalizing queer? AIDS, homophobia and the politics of sexual identity in India 
Queerness is now global. Many emerging economies of the global South are experiencing queer mobilization and sexual identity politics raising fundamental questions of citizenship and human rights on the one hand; and discourses of nationalism, cultural identity, imperialism, tradition and family-values on the other. While some researchers argue that with economic globalization in the developing world, a Western, hegemonic notion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) identity has been exported to traditional societies thereby destroying indigenous sexual cultures and diversities, other scholars do not consider globalization as a significant factor in global queer mobilization and sexual identity politics. This paper aims at exploring the debate around globalization and contemporary queer politics in developing world with special reference to India. After briefly tracing the history of sexual identity politics, this paper examines the process of queer mobilization in relation to emergence of HIV/AIDS epidemic and forces of neoliberal globalization. I argue that the twin-process of globalization and AIDS epidemic has significantly influenced the mobilization of queer communities, while simultaneously strengthening right wing "homophobic" discourses of heterosexist nationalism in India.
doi:10.1186/1744-8603-3-8
PMCID: PMC2018684  PMID: 17623106
14.  Episodic Sexual Transmission of HIV Revealed by Molecular Phylodynamics 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(3):e50.
Background
The structure of sexual contact networks plays a key role in the epidemiology of sexually transmitted infections, and their reconstruction from interview data has provided valuable insights into the spread of infection. For HIV, the long period of infectivity has made the interpretation of contact networks more difficult, and major discrepancies have been observed between the contact network and the transmission network revealed by viral phylogenetics. The high rate of HIV evolution in principle allows for detailed reconstruction of links between virus from different individuals, but often sampling has been too sparse to describe the structure of the transmission network. The aim of this study was to analyze a high-density sample of an HIV-infected population using recently developed techniques in phylogenetics to infer the short-term dynamics of the epidemic among men who have sex with men (MSM).
Methods and Findings
Sequences of the protease and reverse transcriptase coding regions from 2,126 patients, predominantly MSM, from London were compared: 402 of these showed a close match to at least one other subtype B sequence. Nine large clusters were identified on the basis of genetic distance; all were confirmed by Bayesian Monte Carlo Markov chain (MCMC) phylogenetic analysis. Overall, 25% of individuals with a close match with one sequence are linked to 10 or more others. Dated phylogenies of the clusters using a relaxed clock indicated that 65% of the transmissions within clusters took place between 1995 and 2000, and 25% occurred within 6 mo after infection. The likelihood that not all members of the clusters have been identified renders the latter observation conservative.
Conclusions
Reconstruction of the HIV transmission network using a dated phylogeny approach has revealed the HIV epidemic among MSM in London to have been episodic, with evidence of multiple clusters of transmissions dating to the late 1990s, a period when HIV prevalence is known to have doubled in this population. The quantitative description of the transmission dynamics among MSM will be important for parameterization of epidemiological models and in designing intervention strategies.
Using viral genotype data from HIV drug resistance testing at a London clinic, Andrew Leigh Brown and colleagues derive the structure of the transmission network through phylogenetic analysis.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), is mainly spread through unprotected sex with an infected partner. Like other sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS spreads through networks of sexual contacts. The characteristics of these complex networks (which include people who have serial sexual relationships with single partners and people who have concurrent sexual relationships with several partners) affect how quickly diseases spread in the short term and how common the disease is in the long term. For many sexually transmitted diseases, sexual contact networks can be reconstructed from interview data. The information gained in this way can be used for partner notification so that transmitters of the disease and people who may have been unknowingly infected can be identified, treated, and advised about disease prevention. It can also be used to develop effective community-based prevention strategies.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although sexual contact networks have provided valuable information about the spread of many sexually transmitted diseases, they cannot easily be used to understand HIV transmission patterns. This is because the period of infectivity with HIV is long and the risk of infection from a single sexual contact with an infected person is low. Another way to understand the spread of HIV is through phylogenetics, which examines the genetic relatedness of viruses obtained from different individuals. Frequent small changes in the genetic blueprint of HIV allow the virus to avoid the human immune response and to become resistant to antiretroviral drugs. In this study, the researchers use recently developed analytical methods, viral sequences from a large proportion of a specific HIV-infected population, and information on when each sample was taken, to learn about transmission of HIV/AIDS in London among men who have sex with men (MSM; a term that encompasses gay, bisexual, and transgendered men and heterosexual men who sometimes have sex with men). This new approach, which combines information on viral genetic variation and viral population dynamics, is called “molecular phylodynamics.”
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers compared the sequences of the genes encoding the HIV-1 protease and reverse transcriptase from more than 2,000 patients, mainly MSM, attending a large London HIV clinic between 1997 and 2003. 402 of these sequences closely matched at least one other subtype B sequence (the HIV/AIDS epidemic among MSM in the UK primarily involves HIV subtype B). Further analysis showed that the patients from whom this subset of sequences came formed six clusters of ten or more individuals, as well as many smaller clusters, based on the genetic relatedness of their HIV viruses. The researchers then used information on the date when each sample was collected and a “relaxed clock” approach (which accounts for the possibility that different sequences evolve at different rates) to determine dated phylogenies (patterns of genetic relatedness that indicate when gene sequences change) for the clusters. These phylogenies indicated that at least in one in four transmissions between the individuals in the large clusters occurred within 6 months of infection, and that most of the transmissions within each cluster occurred over periods of 3–4 years during the late 1990s.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This phylodynamic reconstruction of the HIV transmission network among MSM in a London clinic indicates that the HIV epidemic in this population has been episodic with multiple clusters of transmission occurring during the late 1990s, a time when the number of HIV infections in this population doubled. It also suggests that transmission of the virus during the early stages of HIV infection is likely to be an important driver of the epidemic. Whether these results apply more generally to the MSM population at risk for transmitting or acquiring HIV depends on whether the patients in this study are representative of that group. Additional studies are needed to determine this, but if the patterns revealed here are generalizable, then this quantitative description of HIV transmission dynamics should help in the design of strategies to strengthen HIV prevention among MSM.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050050.
Read a related PLoS Medicine Perspective article
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including a list of organizations that provide information for gay men and MSM
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on HIV/AIDS and on HIV/AIDS among MSM (in English and Spanish)
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on HIV, AIDS, and men who have sex with men
The Center for AIDS Prevention Studies (University of California, San Francisco) provides information on sexual networks and HIV prevention
The US National Center for Biotechnology Information provides a science primer on molecular phylogenetics
UK Collaborative Group on HIV Drug Resistance maintains a database of resistance tests
HIV i-Base offers HIV treatment information for health-care professionals and HIV-positive people
The NIH-funded HIV Sequence Database contains data on genetic sequences, resistance, immunology, and vaccine trials
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050050
PMCID: PMC2267814  PMID: 18351795
15.  Do Ask, Do Tell: High Levels of Acceptability by Patients of Routine Collection of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Data in Four Diverse American Community Health Centers 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e107104.
Background
The Institute of Medicine and The Joint Commission have recommended asking sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) questions in clinical settings and including such data in Electronic Health Records (EHRs). This is increasingly viewed as a critical step toward systematically documenting and addressing health disparities affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. The U.S. government is currently considering whether to include SOGI data collection in the Stage 3 guidelines for the incentive program promoting meaningful use of EHR. However, some have questioned whether acceptable standard measures to collect SOGI data in clinical settings exist.
Methods
In order to better understand how a diverse group of patients would respond if SOGI questions were asked in primary care settings, 301 randomly selected patients receiving primary care at four health centers across the U.S. were asked SOGI questions and then asked follow-up questions. This sample was mainly heterosexual, racially diverse, and geographically and regionally broad.
Results
There was a strong consensus among patients surveyed about the importance of asking SOGI questions. Most of the LGBT respondents thought that the questions presented on the survey allowed them to accurately document their SOGI. Most respondents—heterosexual and LGBT—answered the questions, and said that they would answer such questions in the future. While there were some age-related differences, respondents of all ages overwhelmingly expressed support for asking SOGI questions and understood the importance of providers' knowing their patients' SOGI.
Conclusions
Given current deliberations within national health care regulatory bodies and the government's increased attention to LGBT health disparities, the finding that patients can and will answer SOGI questions has important implications for public policy. This study provides evidence that integrating SOGI data collection into the meaningful use requirements is both acceptable to diverse samples of patients, including heterosexuals, and feasible.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0107104
PMCID: PMC4157837  PMID: 25198577
16.  A social ecology of rectal microbicide acceptability among young men who have sex with men and transgender women in Thailand 
Introduction
With HIV-incidence among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Bangkok among the highest in the world, a topical rectal microbicide would be a tremendous asset to prevention. Nevertheless, ubiquitous gaps between clinical trial efficacy and real-world effectiveness of existing HIV preventive interventions highlight the need to address multi-level factors that may impact on rectal microbicide implementation. We explored the social ecology of rectal microbicide acceptability among MSM and transgender women in Chiang Mai and Pattaya, Thailand.
Methods
We used a qualitative approach guided by a social ecological model. Five focus groups were conducted in Thai using a semi-structured interview guide. All interviews were digitally recorded, transcribed verbatim in Thai and translated into English. We conducted thematic analysis using line-by-line and axial coding and a constant comparative method. Transcripts and codes were uploaded into a customized database programmed in Microsoft Access. We then used content analysis to calculate theme frequencies by group, and Chi-square tests and Fisher's exact test to compare themes by sexual orientation/gender expression and age.
Results
Participant's (n=37) mean age was 24.8 years (SD=4.2). The majority (70.3%) self-identified as gay, 24.3% transgender women. Product-level themes (side effects, formulation, efficacy, scent, etc.) accounted for 42%, individual (increased sexual risk, packaging/portability, timing/duration of protection) 29%, interpersonal (trust/communication, power/negotiation, stealth) 8% and social–structural (cost, access, community influence, stigma) 21% of total codes, with significant differences by sexual orientation/gender identity. The intersections of multi-level influences included product formulation and timing of use preferences contingent on interpersonal communication and partner type, in the context of constraints posed by stigma, venues for access and cost.
Discussion
The intersecting influence of multi-level factors on rectal microbicide acceptability suggests that social–structural interventions to ensure widespread access, low cost and to mitigate stigma and discrimination against gay and other MSM and transgender women in the Thai health care system and broader society will support the effectiveness of rectal microbicides, in combination with other prevention technologies, in reducing HIV transmission. Education, outreach and small-group interventions that acknowledge differences between MSM and transgender women may support rectal microbicide implementation among most-at-risk populations in Thailand.
doi:10.7448/IAS.16.1.18476
PMCID: PMC3732386  PMID: 23911116
HIV prevention; rectal microbicide; acceptability of healthcare; social ecological model; gay men; transgender women; Thailand; qualitative research
17.  Creating a public space and dialogue on sexuality and rights: a case study from Bangladesh 
Health Research Policy and Systems  2011;9(Suppl 1):S12.
This article describes and analyses a research based engagement by a university school of public health in Bangladesh aimed at raising public debate on sexuality and rights and making issues such as discrimination more visible to policy makers and other key stakeholders in a challenging context. The impetus for this work came from participation in an international research programme with a particular interest in bridging international and local understandings of sexual and reproductive rights. The research team worked to create a platform to broaden discussions on sexuality and rights by building on a number of research activities on rural and urban men’s and women’s sexual health concerns, and on changing concepts of sexuality and understandings of sexual rights among specific population groups in Dhaka city, including sexual minorities. Linked to this on-going process of improving the evidence base, there has been a series of learning and capacity building activities over the last four years consisting of training workshops, meetings, conferences and dialogues. These brought together different configurations of stakeholders – members of sexual minorities, academics, service providers, advocacy organisations, media and policy makers. This process contributed to developing more effective advocacy strategies through challenging representations of sexuality and rights in the public domain. Gradually, these efforts brought visibility to hidden or stigmatised sexuality and rights issues through interim outcomes that have created important steps towards changing attitudes and policies. These included creating safe spaces for sexual minorities to meet and strategise, development of learning materials for university students and engagement with legal rights groups on sexual rights. Through this process, it was found to be possible to create a public space and dialogue on sexuality and rights in a conservative and challenging environment like Bangladesh by bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders to successfully challenge representations of sexuality in the public arena. A further challenge for BRAC University has been to assess its role as a teaching and research organisation, and find a balance between the two roles of research and activism in doing work on sexuality issues in a very sensitive political context.
doi:10.1186/1478-4505-9-S1-S12
PMCID: PMC3121129  PMID: 21679379
18.  Measurement of Sexual Identity in Surveys: Implications for Substance Abuse Research 
Archives of Sexual Behavior  2011;41(3):649-657.
Researchers are increasingly recognizing the need to include measures of sexual orientation in health studies. However, relatively little attention has been paid to how sexual identity, the cognitive aspect of sexual orientation, is defined and measured. Our study examined the impact of using two separate sexual identity question formats: a three-category question (response options included heterosexual, bisexual, or lesbian/gay), and a similar question with five response options (only lesbian/gay, mostly lesbian/gay, bisexual, mostly heterosexual, only heterosexual). A large probability-based sample of undergraduate university students was surveyed and a randomly selected sub-sample of participants was asked both sexual identity questions. Approximately one-third of students who identified as bisexual based on the three-category sexual identity measure chose “mostly heterosexual” or “mostly lesbian/gay” on the five-category measure. In addition to comparing sample proportions of lesbian/gay, bisexual, or heterosexual participants based on the two question formats, rates of alcohol and other drug use were also examined among the participants. Substance use outcomes among the sexual minority subgroups differed based on the sexual identity question format used: bisexual participants showed greater risk of substance use in analyses using the three-category measure whereas “mostly heterosexual” participants were at greater risk when data were analyzed using the five-category measure. Study results have important implications for the study of sexual identity, as well as whether and how to recode responses to questions related to sexual identity.
doi:10.1007/s10508-011-9768-7
PMCID: PMC3233651  PMID: 21573706
Sexual orientation; Sexual identity; Substance use; College students
19.  Sex On-Demand: Geosocial Networking Phone Apps and Risk of Sexually Transmitted Infections among a Cross-Sectional Sample of Men who have Sex with Men in Los Angeles County 
Sexually transmitted infections  2014;90(7):567-572.
Background
Geosocial networking applications (GSN apps) used to meet sexual partners have become increasingly popular with men who have sex with men (MSM) since 2009. The current study aimed to determine if self-identified HIV negative, MSM clinic attendees who used GSN apps have an increased incidence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) compared to self-identified HIV negative, MSM attendees who met sexual partners via in-person venues such as bars or clubs or through MSM-specific hook-up websites.
Methods
Data were collected between August 2011 and January 2013 on all self-identified HIV-negative, MSM clients visiting the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center for STI screening. A total of 7,184 individuals tested for STIs and self-reported behaviours on drug use and social networking methods to meet sexual partners. Multivariate logistic regression models were used to analyze the results.
Results
Individuals who used GSN apps to meet sexual partners had greater odds of testing positive for gonorrhoea (OR: 1.25; 95% CI: 1.06–1.48) and for chlamydia (OR: 1.37; 95% CI: 1.13–1.65) compared to individuals who met partners through in-person methods only. There were no significant differences in syphilis and HIV incidence between those who met partners via in-person venues only, on the internet or through GSN apps.
Conclusions
The present study concludes that sexual health clinic MSM attendees who are meeting on GSN apps are at greater risk for gonorrhoea and chlamydia than MSM attendees who meet in-person or on the internet. Future interventions should explore the use of these novel technologies for testing promotion, prevention and education.
doi:10.1136/sextrans-2013-051494
PMCID: PMC4198579  PMID: 24926041
20.  Experiences of social oppression among men who have sex with men in a cosmopolitan city in Nigeria 
Background
In several African countries, men who have sex with men (MSM) are becoming visible, as a result of which they are now victims of human rights violations. This has a negative effect on their ability to access services targeted at human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevention and care. The main objective of this study was to document the experiences of social oppression among MSM in Lagos State, Nigeria.
Methods
Simple random sampling was used to select three of the seven local government areas in Lagos State that had community centers. Snowball sampling was used to recruit 291 participants. The survey instrument was a pretested questionnaire. The results were presented as means and percentages. Univariate, bivariate, and multivariate analysis was carried out at P<0.05.
Results
The mean age of the participants was 25.3±4.6 years, and the majority (66.0%) were currently single and not in a steady relationship. Half of the men self-identified as gay and about 48% as bisexual. Alcohol use occurred in 56.7% of the respondents, about a quarter (25.8%) smoked cigarettes, and 11.0% reported using hard drugs. The commonest acts of human rights violation and or violence reported were aggression 35.7%, alienation 29.9%, verbal abuse 19.2%, physical abuse 17.9%, rape by a man 16.8%, and psychological abuse 20.3%. The predictors of human rights violation were level of education (adjusted odds ratio 2.6, P=0.019), marital status (adjusted odds ratio 2.3, P=0.005), and sexual orientation (adjusted odds ratio 1.9, P=0.017). For physical and sexual abuse, MSM who consumed alcohol and were homosexual/transgender were at risk.
Conclusion
This study showed that a high proportion of MSM had experienced various forms of human rights violation and abuse as a result of their sexual orientation/identity. There is a need to document and quantify these happenings, which can serve as an advocacy tool for reform.
doi:10.2147/HIV.S72034
PMCID: PMC4278793  PMID: 25565899
social oppression; men who have sex with men; Lagos; Nigeria
21.  Internalised homonegativity predicts HIV-associated risk behavior in European men who have sex with men in a 38-country cross-sectional study: some public health implications of homophobia 
BMJ Open  2013;3(2):e001928.
Objectives
Internalised homonegativity (IH) is hypothesised to be associated with HIV risk behaviour and HIV testing in men who have sex with men (MSM). We sought to determine the social and individual variables associated with IH and the associations between IH and HIV-related behaviours.
Design and setting
We examined IH and its predictors as part of a larger Internet-delivered, cross-sectional study on HIV and health in MSM in 38 European countries.
Participants
181 495 MSM, IH data analysis subsample 144 177. All participants were male, over the age of consent for homosexual activity in their country of domicile, and have had at least one homosexual contact in the past 6 months.
Methodology
An anonymous Internet-based questionnaire was disseminated in 25 languages through MSM social media, websites and organisations and responses saved to a UK-based server. IH was measured using a standardised, cross-culturally appropriate scale.
Results
Three clusters of European countries based on the level of experienced discrimination emerged. IH was predicted by country LGB (lesbian, gay and bisexual) legal climate, Gini coefficient and size of place of settlement. Lower IH was associated with degree the respondent was ‘out’ as gay to others and older age. ‘Outness’ was associated with ever having an HIV test and age, education and number of gay friends, while IH (controlling for the number of non-steady unprotected sex partners and perceived lack of control over safe sex) was associated with condom use for anal intercourse.
Conclusions
IH is associated with LGB legal climate, economic development indices and urbanisation. It is also associated with ‘outness’ and with HIV risk and preventive behaviours including HIV testing, perceived control over sexual risk and condom use. Homonegative climate is associated with IH and higher levels of HIV-associated risk in MSM. Reducing IH through attention to LGB human rights may be appropriate HIV reduction intervention for MSM.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001928
PMCID: PMC3586183  PMID: 23386580
Public Health; Sexual Medicine; Social Medicine
22.  “They see you as a different thing”: The Experiences of Men Who Have Sex with Men with Health Care Workers in South African Township Communities 
Sexually transmitted infections  2008;84(6):430-433.
Objectives
To describe interactions between men who have sex with men (MSM) and health care workers (HCWs) in peri-urban township communities in South Africa.
Method
Qualitative study using semistructured in-depth interviews and focus group discussions in the Gauteng province townships of Soweto and Mamelodi. We purposively sampled 32 MSM for in-depth interviews and 15 for focus group discussions. Topics explored included identity, sexuality, community life, use of health services, and experiences of stigma and discrimination.
Results
MSM felt their options for non-stigmatizing sexual health care services were limited by homophobic verbal harassment by HCWs. Gay-identified men sought out clinics with reputations for employing HCWs who respected their privacy and their sexuality, and challenged those HCWs who mistreated them. Non-gay identified MSM presented masculine, heterosexual identities when presenting for sexual health problems, and avoided discussing their sexuality with HCWs.
Conclusions
The strategies MSM employ to confront or avoid homophobia from HCWs may not be conducive to sexual health promotion in this population. Interventions that increase the capacity of public sector HCWs to provide appropriate sexual health services to MSM are urgently needed.
doi:10.1136/sti.2008.031567
PMCID: PMC2780345  PMID: 19028941
Africa; HIV; homosexual men; health care seeking; sexually transmitted diseases
23.  Epidemiology of male same-sex behaviour and associated sexual health indicators in low- and middle-income countries: 2003–2007 estimates 
Sexually Transmitted Infections  2008;84(Suppl_1):i49-i56.
Objectives:
To conduct a systematic review of published and unpublished data from research and public health information systems on the prevalence of male-to-male sex in the total male population; as well as among men who have sex with men (MSM), data on prevalence of heterosexual activity and heterosexual unions; prevalence of condom use with male and female partners; and prevalence of HIV infection and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Methods:
Key indicators were defined (a) among men in the general population: prevalence of sex with a man ever and last year; (b) among MSM: prevalence of heterosexual experiences ever and last year; proportion of male-female transgenders; proportion of sex workers; prevalence of HIV and other STIs, condom use in last sexual encounter; consistent condom use with men last year; never used a condom with a man. With help from key informants, study searches were conducted in Pubmed, LILLACS, institutional databases, conference records and other sources. Methodology and quality of information were assessed, and the best data available for 2003–7 were selected. Indicator estimates from each study were used to propose regional estimate ranges.
Results:
A total of 83 new entries were entered into the database in addition to the previous 561, totalling 644. Of these, 107 showing 2003–7 data were selected. Many new studies came from sub-Saharan Africa, portraying hidden HIV epidemics among MSM. The most frequently reported estimate was HIV infection, with high estimate ranges in most of the regions, except for Middle East and North Africa and Eastern Europe. The next most frequently reported was lifetime frequency of heterosexual sex, showing that roughly 50% of MSM ever had sex with a woman. The small number of newer studies reporting prevalence of “sex with a man in last 12 months” between 2003 and 2007, did not warrant enough new evidence to revise our 2005 size estimates for MSM populations.
Conclusions:
A considerable number of new studies with estimates of relevance to understanding sexual behaviour and HIV among MSM were identified, with an encouraging amount of new data coming from sub-Saharan Africa. However, limitations in the quality, utility and comparability of available information persist. At least three measures could be promoted for use in surveillance and academic studies: standardised indicators for MSM studies; standardised operational definitions of, and instructions to describe, variables; and standardised research designs and data gathering strategies. A prerequisite for this all is intense advocacy to ensure a social climate in which research into such matters is prioritised, resources are made available as needed and the human rights of MSM are respected.
doi:10.1136/sti.2008.030569
PMCID: PMC2569188  PMID: 18647866
24.  Sexual Identity Development among Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Youths: Consistency and Change Over Time 
Journal of sex research  2006;43(1):46-58.
A longitudinal report of 156 gay, lesbian, and bisexual youths examined changes in sexual identity over time. Fifty-seven percent of the youths remained consistently self-identified as gay/lesbian, 18% transited from bisexual to gay/lesbian, and 15% consistently identified as bisexual over time. Although youths who consistently identified as gay/lesbian did not differ from other youths on time since experiencing sexual developmental milestones, they reported current sexual orientation and sexual behaviors that were more same-sex centered and they scored higher on aspects of the identity integration process (e.g., more certain, comfortable, and accepting of their same-sex sexuality, more involved in gay-related social activities, more possessing of positive attitudes toward homosexuality, and more comfortable with others knowing about their sexuality) than youths who transited to a gay/lesbian identity and youths who consistently identified as bisexual. Contrary to the hypothesis that females are more sexually fluid than males, female youths were less likely to change identities than male youths. The finding that youths who transited to a gay/lesbian identity differed from consistently gay/lesbian youths suggests that identity integration continues after the adoption of a gay/lesbian sexual identity.
doi:10.1080/00224490609552298
PMCID: PMC3215279  PMID: 16817067
Coming-out process; sexual identity; sexual orientation; sexual behavior; internalized homophobia; gay; lesbian; bisexual; adolescents; longitudinal; gender differences
25.  Sexual health of ethnic minority MSM in Britain (MESH project): design and methods 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:419.
Background
Men who have sex with men (MSM) remain the group most at risk of acquiring HIV infection in Britain. HIV prevalence appears to vary widely between MSM from different ethnic minority groups in this country for reasons that are not fully understood. The aim of the MESH project was to examine in detail the sexual health of ethnic minority MSM living in Britain.
Methods/Design
The main objectives of the MESH project were to explore among ethnic minority MSM living in Britain: (i) sexual risk behaviour and HIV prevalence; (ii) their experience of stigma and discrimination; (iii) disclosure of sexuality; (iv) use of, and satisfaction with sexual health services; (v) the extent to which sexual health services (for treatment and prevention) are aware of the needs of ethnic minority MSM.
The research was conducted between 2006 and 2008 in four national samples: (i) ethnic minority MSM living in Britain; (ii) a comparison group of white British MSM living in Britain; (iii) NHS sexual health clinic staff in 15 British towns and cities with significant ethnic minority communities and; (iv) sexual health promotion/HIV prevention service providers. We also recruited men from two "key migrant" groups living in Britain: MSM born in Central or Eastern Europe and MSM born in Central or South America.
Internet-based quantitative and qualitative research methods were used. Ethnic minority MSM were recruited through advertisements on websites, in community venues, via informal networks and in sexual health clinics. White and "key migrant" MSM were recruited mostly through Gaydar, one of the most popular dating sites used by gay men in Britain. MSM who agreed to take part completed a questionnaire online. Ethnic minority MSM who completed the online questionnaire were asked if they would be willing to take part in an online qualitative interview using email.
Service providers were identified through the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) and the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) CHAPS partnerships. Staff who agreed to take part were asked to complete a questionnaire online.
The online survey was completed by 1241 ethnic minority MSM, 416 men born in South and Central America or Central and Eastern Europe, and 13,717 white British MSM; 67 ethnic minority MSM took part in the online qualitative interview. In addition 364 people working in sexual health clinics and 124 health promotion workers from around Britain completed an online questionnaire.
Discussion
The findings from this study will improve our understanding of the sexual health and needs of ethnic minority MSM in Britain.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-419
PMCID: PMC2916902  PMID: 20630087

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