Assessing sexual risk behavior and HIV prevalence among MSM and willingness to participate in biomedical intervention trials for HIV prevention in Northern Thailand

Published: July 20, 2010

Assessing sexual risk behavior and HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men and willingness to participate in biomedical intervention trials for HIV prevention in Northern Thailand

N. Kosashunhanan1, P. Saokhieo1, R. Songsupa1, C. Chariyalertsak2, S. Visarutaratana2, S. Chariyalertsak1

1Research Institute for Health Sciences, Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai, Thailand, 2Chiang Mai Public health Office, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Background: The study, done from April 2008 through December 2009 among men who have sex with men (MSM) seeking voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) at a MSM-friendly service clinic in Chiang Mai, assessed sexual risk behaviors and HIV burden and also interest in participating in HIV prevention trials using new biomedical intervention methods in northern Thailand.

Methods: The VCT clinic provides free VCT and STI services only for MSM. All MSM participants answered a risk behavior assessment questionnaire and consented to HIV testing. Data were analyzed using SPSS statistical package.

Results: During the study period 551 MSM clients received 630 VCT services (11.4% received VCT services more than once). 56.1% identified as gays, 25.4% as transgender (TG) (2 were castrated), and 18.5% were bisexuals. The mean age was 24 years (range 18-55); 48.6% had incomplete or complete bachelor degrees or higher; 7.8% were non-Thai; 43% were employees, 38.7% were students and 4% were male sex workers; and 27.8% had sex in exchange for money or goods. All clients agreed to HIV testing after pre-counseling and 55.9% had already been through VCT or HIV testing. Of these clients, 55.5% took VCT because they perceived themselves to be at high risk for HIV infection, but 27.3% used blood donation as means of determining their HIV status. HIV prevalence at the first visit was 16.5% in gays, 9.3% in TGs, 6.9% in bisexuals. Male circumcision (MC) was 9.1% in gays, 6.4% in TGs and 4.9% in bisexuals. 86.3% expressed interest in pre-exposure prophylaxis (PREP), 69.7% in HIV vaccine, and 29.9% in MC.

Conclusions: The MSM-friendly VCT service had been well accepted and revealed a high HIV prevalence especially in the gay community. The PREP and vaccine trials seem to be more favored by MSM for HIV prevention studies in Thailand.

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