Health system and personal barriers resulting in decreased utilization of HIV and STD testing services among at-risk black men who have sex with men in Massachusetts

Matthew J Mimiaga, Sari L Reisner, Sean Bland, Margie Skeer, Kevin Cranston, Deborah Isenberg, Benny A Vega, Kenneth H Mayer
AIDS Patient Care and STDs 2009, 23 (10): 825-35
Testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STD) remains a cornerstone of public health prevention interventions. This analysis was designed to explore the frequency of testing, as well as health system and personal barriers to testing, among a community-recruited sample of Black men who have sex with men (MSM) at risk for HIV and STDs. Black MSM (n = 197) recruited via modified respondent-driven sampling between January and July 2008 completed an interviewer-administered assessment, with optional voluntary HIV counseling and testing. Logistic regression procedures examined factors associated with not having tested in the 2 years prior to study enrollment for: (1) HIV (among HIV-uninfected participants, n = 145) and (2) STDs (among the entire mixed serostatus sample, n = 197). The odds ratios and their 95% confidence intervals obtained from this analysis were converted to relative risks. (1) HIV: Overall, 33% of HIV-uninfected Black MSM had not been tested for HIV in the 2 years prior to study enrollment. Factors uniquely associated with not having a recent HIV test included: being less educated; engaging in serodiscordant unprotected sex; and never having been HIV tested at a community health clinic, STD clinic, or jail. (2) STDs: Sixty percent had not been tested for STDs in the 2 years prior to study enrollment, and 24% of the sample had never been tested for STDs. Factors uniquely associated with not having a recent STD test included: older age; having had a prior STD; and never having been tested at an emergency department or urgent care clinic. Overlapping factors associated with both not having had a recent HIV or STD test included: substance use during sex; feeling that using a condom during sex is "very difficult"; less frequent contact with other MSM; not visiting a health care provider (HCP) in the past 12 months; having a HCP not recommend HIV or STD testing at their last visit; not having a primary care provider (PCP); current PCP never recommending they get tested for HIV or STDs. In multivariable models adjusting for relevant demographic and behavioral factors, Black MSM who reported that a HCP recommended getting an HIV test (adjusted relative risk [ARR] = 0.26; p = 0.01) or STD test (ARR = 0.11; p = 0.0004) at their last visit in the past 12 months were significantly less likely to have not been tested for HIV or STDs in the past 2 years. Many sexually active Black MSM do not regularly test for HIV or STDs. HCPs play a pivotal role in encouraging testing for Black MSM. Additional provider training is warranted to educate HCPs about the specific health care needs of Black MSM, in order to facilitate access to timely, culturally competent HIV and STD testing and treatment services for this population.

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