Prevalence of HIV-infection and risk behaviour among MSM in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg, Russian Federation
Background: In Russian Federation MSMs are a hard-to-reach group, which makes it particularly difficult to gather information on HIV prevalence and risk behaviour within this population. But the trend of HIV epidemic accounts for the necessity of in-depth studies among MSMs, particularly in the cities with the largest population, Moscow and Saint-Petersburg.
Methods: The study took place in 2006. It was based on the methodology of anonymous sentinel sero-epidemiological and behavioural studies. The target group included MSM visitors of gay club and gay saunas in Moscow (321 respondents) and gay clubs in Saint-Petersburg (237 respondents). We assumed that the chosen groups are to the greatest degree focused on the subculture of the gay community. The interview guide included 136 indicators.
Results: The cohorts in both cities consisted of men (native residents) with an average age of 24-26 years, well adapted socially. In Moscow 87.1% of respondents identified themselves as homosexual, 10.6% as bisexual, about 2% as heterosexual. In Saint-Petersburg 64% described their sexual orientation as homosexual, 35.0% as bisexual and 1% as heterosexual.
The major behavioural risk factors for MSMs included a considerable variety of male sexual partners (regular, non-regular and commercial); sex while intoxicated by alcohol or “light” drugs (non-injected); inconsistent use of condoms during anal sex and ignoring condoms during nearly all oral contacts. HIV prevalence among the respondents totalled 3.8% in Saint-Petersburg and 0.9% in Moscow. 73.3% respondents in Moscow and 35.9% in Saint-Petersburg had been voluntary tested for HIV in the past year.
Conclusions: At present, despite of risky sexual behaviours HIV has not affected many members of the MSM groups attending clubs and gay saunas in both cities. However, HIV prevalence among the Saint-Petersburg cohort was 4 times higher than in Moscow, which correlates with the more complex situation regarding HIV in Saint-Petersburg.