HIV Testing Practices of South African Township MSM in the Era of Expanded Access to ART

Published: August 8, 2014

Abstract

While men who have sex with men (MSM) in Africa are at high risk for HIV infection, few of those already infected know their status. Effectively promoting frequent HIV testing-of increasing importance with the expanding accessibility of antiretroviral treatment-requires an understanding of the testing practices in this population. To understand men’s HIV testing practices, including their behavior, experiences, and perceptions, we conducted in-depth interviews with 81 black South African MSM (ages 20-39), purposively recruited from four townships. Many men in the sample had tested for HIV. While ever having tested seemed to facilitate repeat testing, men still expressed a high level of discomfort with testing. It was common to test after having engaged in risky behavior, thus increasing anxiety about testing that was already present. Fear that they might test HIV positive caused some men to avoid testing until they were clearly sick, and others to avoid testing completely. HIV testing may increase in this population if it becomes a routine practice, instead of being driven by anxiety-inducing incidents. Mobilization through social support might facilitate frequent testing while education about current treatment options is needed.

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