HIV testing at 4 bathhouses in Barcelona city, Spain

Published: July 18, 2010

HIV testing at 4 bathhouses in Barcelona city, Spain

P. Garcia de Olalla1, M.G. Carrasco2, S. Martín2, M. Ros1, M.J. Santomà1, A. Moreno3, E. Diez2, J.A. Caylà1, ‘ Saunes Study Group’

1Public Health Agency of Barcelona, Epidemiology, Barcelona, Spain, 2Public Health Agency of Barcelona, Community and Intervention, Barcelona, Spain, 3Clínic Hospital, Barcelona, Spain

Background: Unprotected sex in men who have sex with men (MSM) in bathhouses continue to happen in most urban areas. These venues present a challenge to developing strategies to prevent the spread of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), however they also provide opportunities for interventions to reduce the risk and rate of disease transmission. No city in Spain has developed programs that offer HIV testing in these venues. Similar programs have not existed before in Barcelona.

Methods: A rapid HIV testing program was implemented between 2006 and 2009 at 4 bathhouses in Barcelona. In addition to HIV testing, behavioral and demographic data were collected from presumed HIV-negative participants. Descriptive analyses were performed using SPSS version 13.

Results: Of the 443 different men tested 27 (6%) were HIV-positive for the first time in 2006; 36 (8%) of the 453 tested in 2007; 32 (9%) of the 350 tested in 2008, and 23 (9%) of the 254 tested until mid-2009. The mean CD4+ cell count was 475 cells/mul and 28% was below 350 cells. 20% of tested men were tested for the first time by our program.

Conclusions: The program tested men not tested in more traditional medical settings and recruited MSM who were at high risk for HIV infection. The incidence of a new HIV diagnosis was higher than in other settings. Bathhouse-based testing to detect HIV infection in these venues may be a good strategy to reduce the forward transmission of HIV in this population.

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