Implementing bathhouse-based voluntary counselling and testing has no adverse effect on bathhouse patronage among men who have sex with men.

Published: March 1, 2012

Abstract

Implementing HIV voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) in bathhouses is a proven public health strategy for reaching high-risk men who have sex with men (MSM) and efficiently identifying new HIV cases. However, some bathhouse managers are concerned that VCT programmes could adversely affect business. This study examined whether offering VCT on the premises of a bathhouse changed patterns of patron visits. A collaborating bathhouse provided electronic anonymized patron data from their entire population of attendees. VCT was offered on premises with varying frequencies over the course of three years. Club entrances and exits were modelled as a function of intensity of VCT programming. Club entrances did not differ as a function of how many days per week testing was being offered in a given month. Additionally, club entrances did not decrease, nor did club exits increase, during specific half-hour time periods when testing was offered. Implementing bathhouse-based VCT did not have any demonstrable impact on patronage. Public health officials can leverage these results to help alleviate club managers’ concerns about patron reactions to providing testing on site, and to support expanding sexual health programmes for MSM in these venues.

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