Identity, social networks and sexual risk among township men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) in Cape Town, South Africa

Published: August 1, 2008

Identity, social networks and sexual risk among township men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) in Cape Town, South Africa

Background: MSM are well-represented in Cape Town, South Africa. The HIV epidemic in MSM was eclipsed by the heterosexual epidemic. The heterosexual transmission emphasis of HIV programs has resulted in neglect of MSM research and services, most evidently in “township” MSM. This research aims to assess identity, social structures and HIV risk in this group.

Methods: 100 MSM will be interviewed in two peri-urban townships in Cape Town. An interviewer-administered questionnaire investigates MSM social and sexual networks, risk behaviours and discrimination. To date, the study has enrolled 17 men. Recruitment is through respondent-driven sampling technique.

Results: The mean age was 26 years. 56% are unemployed, 44% live in informal housing. 63% of participants preferred to be called ‘gay’. On average, participants knew 18 MSM in their community. They met other MSM predominantly at parties (29%), work (21%) and clubs outside of the township (14%) and socialized with MSM at home (57%) and clubs in the township (36%). Mean age of first intercourse with a male was 16 years. Participants reported a mean of 17 male partners ever. While 40% reported sex with a female ever, none reported in the last 6 months. 93% had been tested for HIV; 14% were HIV-positive, 79% negative, 7% refused to answer. 81% did not know their partners’ status. 56% reported using condoms “always”, 32% “sometimes”, and 6% “never”. 33% had received money, gifts or accommodation for sex. Half had had sex after using alcohol or drugs. 87% had felt discriminated against: including being teased, sworn at, gossiped about, assumed to be HIV-positive, 37% physically – and 13% sexually – assaulted.

Conclusions: Social and sexual interactions are taking place across communities in the MSM network. MSM report high levels of risk behaviour and discrimination. MSM-specific prevention programs and research should be improved in this population.

-Abstract available at link below-

Leave a Reply