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Proximity to HIV is associated with a high rate of HIV testing among men who have sex with men living in Douala, Cameroon

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Abstract:

In low- and middle-income countries, men who have sex with men (MSM) are 19 times more likely to be HIV positive compared with background populations. Criminalisation and social rejection of homosexuality in most sub-Saharan African countries reinforce stigma and exclude MSM from prevention activities, including HIV testing. This paper's purpose is to identify factors associated with never having been HIV tested (NHT), among a sample of Cameroonian MSM. In 2008, a community-based study was conducted in Douala, the economic capital city of Cameroon, by a local NGO Alternatives-Cameroun, recruiting participants through the snowball technique and administering a questionnaire during face-to-face interviews. Proximity to HIV was investigated according to the following criteria: knowing at least one person living with HIV and having been exposed to HIV prevention interventions. NHT was defined as reporting to have never been HIV tested. A logistic regression was used to identify factors associated with NHT. Among the 165 MSM of our study group who reported that they were not HIV positive, 19% reported NHT. Factors independently associated with NHT were as follows: being younger, being Muslim, not having a steady male partner, not knowing any person living with HIV and never having been exposed to HIV prevention interventions. In this MSM population, a small proportion reported that they had never been HIV tested and among these, the percentage was higher among individuals not in proximity to HIV. Despite the hostile context of sub-Saharan African countries towards MSM, local and national HIV testing campaigns to date may have played a substantial role in raising HIV awareness in the MSM population living in Douala, and peer-based counselling may have educated those in contact with Alternatives-Cameroun regarding the positive value of HIV testing. This result is a further argument for continuing community-based prevention and extending it to difficult-to-reach MSM.

Keywords: Cameroon; HIV prevention interventions; HIV testing; men who have sex with men

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09540121.2012.668172

Affiliations: 1: INSERM, Marseille, France 2: Coalition Plus, Pantin, France 3: Alternatives-Cameroun, Douala, Cameroon

Publication date: August 1, 2012

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