Interest in the 'Test and Treat' strategy for HIV prevention among men who have sex with men living in Bangkok.

Published: November 11, 2012

Abstract

Background: The current HIV epidemic in Thailand is primarily driven by new cases among men who have sex with men (MSM). HPTN052 study demonstrated 96% efficacy of immediate antiretroviral therapy (ART) to reduce HIV transmission among serodiscordant heterosexual couples. As a result, universal HIV testing and immediate ART has emerged as a strategy to reduce HIV transmission in certain at-risk populations. The acceptability of this strategy, however, is unknown in MSM. Methods: From August 2011-March 2012, we conducted a cross-sectional study using self-administered questionnaires to assess attitudes towards universal HIV testing and immediate ART among MSM VCT clients in Bangkok. Participants were asked to complete the questionnaires prior to and after knowing their HIV status. The study was approved by the Institutional Review Board of the Faculty of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand. Results: Of 342 MSM, the median age (IQR) was 26 (22-31) years, and 34.2% had bachelor’s degree or higher. Previous HIV testing was reported by 69.9%, 35.2% of which had HIV testing annually. The most common reasons for previous HIV testing included perceived risk behaviors (63.6%), annual health checkup (26.4%), and partner’s request (13.8%). Prior to receiving pre-test counseling, 74.4% expressed interest to get regular HIV testing. Health benefits from testing (59.6%), free testing (36.5%), and speedy service (35.7%) were the most common persuasive reasons to come for regular HIV testing. Longevity (73.1%) and prevention of HIV transmission to others (58.4%) were reasons for interest in immediate ART (if tested positive) program while costs (37.0%) and life-long burden (36.7%) were cited as main barriers. Among MSM who tested HIV-positive (n=45, 13.2%), the interest to participate in immediate ART program was very high both before and after knowing their HIV status (86.7% vs 93.3%, p=0.371). Among HIV-negative MSM, the interest to participate in regular HIV testing program significantly increased after knowing HIV status (83.4% vs 77.0%, p<0.001). Conclusions: MSM in Bangkok showed high level of interest in the "Test and Treat" strategy for HIV prevention. Knowing one’s HIV status affected the interest to access regular HIV testing program.

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