Men who have sex with men (MSM) accessing a large metropolitan sexual health and infectious diseases clinic in Melbourne, Australia – a psychological snapshot

Published: July 22, 2010

Men who have sex with men (MSM) accessing a large metropolitan sexual health and infectious diseases clinic in Melbourne, Australia – a psychological snapshot

T.M. Gibbie1,2, M. Hay3, A. Mijch3

1The Alfred, Infectious Diseases Unit, Melbourne, Australia, 2Monash University, School of Psychology and Psychiatry, Melbourne, Australia, 3Monash University, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Melbourne, Australia

Background: MSM continue to be at highest risk for HIV infection in Australia. Despite widespread health promotion, a sustained increase in HIV notifications has occurred in Victoria. This study aimed assess the prevalence and type of psychological distress in MSM accessing a Victorian sexual health and infectious diseases clinic; and to explore differences in the psychological well-being of HIV positive and HIV negative MSM.
Methods: A cross-section convenience sample of 240 MSM attending for routine care (HIV positive n =52, HIV negative n = 188) were recruited. Participants completed self-report questionnaires including demographics, substance use and the Personality Assessment Screener (PAS). The PAS gives an overall score of psychological distress along with 10 subscales representing distinct types of clinical problems.
Results: Over half (58%, n =140) of the total sample scored in the clinically significant range on the PAS total score. The domains of Negative Affect/Mood (60% clinically significant) and Suicidal Thinking (46% clinically significant) correlated the highest with overall psychological distress (r = 0.55, p = 0.00). Amphetamine use significantly correlated with psychological distress (r =0.33, p = 0.00). Independent t-tests by HIV status revealed HIV positive participants scored significantly higher on domains of Social Withdrawal t(207) = -3.05, p = 0.003) and Health Problems t(206) = -4.88, p = 0.000), but not on total scores t(195) = -.39, p = 0.69). HIV negative participants self-reported binge drinking was significantly higher than that of HIV positive participants t(212) = 3.18, p = 0.001).
Conclusions: A subgroup of MSM attending primary health services display clinically significant psychological distress that warrants additional assessment. We found a concerning prevalence of mood disturbance and suicidal thinking in this sample. The use of psychological screening in addition to sexual health assessment of MSM attending sexual health/ID clinics may provide valuable information for improving the well-being of this group

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