September 24, 2015
2 min read

‘Substantial’ percentage of MSM fail to report male sex partners at testing

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More than one-fifth of men who have sex with men newly identified with HIV infection did not report male sexual partners at the time of HIV testing, according to data published in MMWR.

In addition, those who did not initially disclose male partners were more likely to report at least one female sex partner during partner notification service interviews, the researchers wrote.

“Health care providers often assess the need for HIV and STD prevention services on the basis of clients’ self-reported risk behaviors, which might be underreported,” the researchers wrote. “This potential for missed opportunities to deliver effective prevention services to MSM highlights the importance of accurately identifying risks among this population, which remains the population most affected by HIV infection.”

Researchers examined HIV testing and partner reporting at three North Carolina health clinics from September 2011 to October 2013. Participants were interviewed about risk factors including sexual partners at the time of testing, and again during partner services interviews if they tested positive for the infection. Data from those whose reports differed between interviews were analyzed and compared with consistently reporting participants, and sexual networks of those who named at least one partner during partner services interviews also were reviewed.

Of the men (n = 16,892) tested during the time period, 1.1% were diagnosed with HIV infection, the researchers wrote. Among the 113 men who reported male sex partners during partner service interviews (median age, 24 years; 85% black), 23% did not report a male sex partner at initial testing. Although no significant difference was seen in the number of male sex partners, those who did not initially disclose a male sex partner were more likely to report at least one female sex partner (30.8% vs. 6.9%; P = .001). In addition, 52.9% of MSM who did not initially report male partners and provided contact information for at least one partner were found to share sexual networks with others who initially reported male partners.

Factors that influenced misreporting of risk factors among MSM included privacy concerns, mistaken sexual orientation and an unawareness of the benefits of accurate reporting, the researchers said.

“A substantial proportion of MSM with newly diagnosed HIV infection … did not disclose their male sex partners during HIV testing,” the investigators wrote. “To customize HIV prevention interventions effectively in disproportionately affected persons such as young African-American MSM, HIV prevention programs might consider implementing novel strategies to accurately assess risk.

“Examples of potential strategies include increased access to testing venues that are customized for young African-American MSM, increased use of technology to administer risk screening privately and increased education regarding the benefits of new HIV prevention interventions.” – by Dave Muoio

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.