Acceptability and feasibility of venue-based sexual behaviour and HIV prevalence surveys amongst MSM in Caracas
K. Whalley1, F. Reyna-Ganteaume2, M. Gutiérrez2, G. Hart3, A. Johnson3, A. Grant1, A. Arenas-Pinto3,4
1London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom, 2Accion Solidaria, Caracas, Venezuela, 3University College London, London, United Kingdom, 4Universidad Central de Venezuela, Caracas, Venezuela
Background: Men who have sex with men (MSM) represent an epidemiologically crucial group at high risk of HIV infection in most Latin American countries, yet in Venezuela HIV prevalence and sexual risk behaviours amongst MSM have been unreported for nearly fifteen years. This exploratory study assesses the feasibility and acceptability of generating such data via venue-based surveys in Caracas.
Methods: An anonymous self-completion sexual behaviour questionnaire was developed (including questions on survey acceptability). Thirty social places in Caracas where MSM congregate were identified. Investigators’ personal security was a serious concern and the major factor influencing selection of venues to be visited. Men attending six bars, one commercial shopping centre and one organisational meeting were invited to complete the questionnaire.
Results: Of 141 men approached, 115 MSM (82%) participated. Almost all men self-identified as gay (83%) or bisexual (16%) and 84% visited gay venues at least monthly. 88% reported anal intercourse with men, with a median of 2 male sexual partners in the past year (interquartile range 1- 5). Seventy-five men (66%) reported HIV testing within the past year. Eleven men (10%) believed themselves to be HIV positive yet only six (6%) reported a previous positive test. Completing the questionnaire, 65% felt “very comfortable”, 75% found it “very easy” to understand and only 4% considered the venue “inadequate”. 82% of men reported that they would, or probably would, accept anonymous oral HIV testing for research purposes.
Conclusions: These data suggest sexual behaviour questionnaire surveys may be feasible and largely acceptable amongst MSM within gay venues in Caracas; these men also seem willing to participate in HIV prevalence surveys. Although convenience sampling due to security concerns clearly restricts the representativeness of this and future surveys, data are urgently required. Further research should address the practical planning of sexual behaviour and HIV prevalence surveys in this context.