Reasons for not taking an HIV test among men who have sex with men: an internet study from Peru
Background: Although Peru has a concentrated HIV epidemic among men who have sex with men (MSM), it is estimated that less than 43% of MSM have been tested for HIV. A feasible tool to reach this population is the Internet, however few MSM report for testing after viewing online invitations and the reasons for not taking an HIV test are poorly understood.
Methods: We delivered an online survey on five gay Peruvian websites over 4 months.
Results: Of 1241 MSM who completed the survey, 462 had never been tested for HIV and were included in the analysis. The mean age of the participants was 24 (range: 18-56), 47.4% accessed the Internet through a commercial cybercafe, 53.5% were homosexual and the remaining were bisexual. The main reason for not taking an HIV test was fear of a positive test result (34.8%), followed by perception of low-risk for HIV infection (31.2%), lack of awareness of testing facilities (26.2%), consequences of a positive HIV result (15.4%), limitations to afford an HIV test (15.6%), the belief that they have to pay for HIV treatment (13.2%) and that there is no treatment for HIV (4.5%). Regarding the profile of participants with low-risk perception for HIV infection, 53% reported their last sex was with a casual partner and 62% did not use a condom at last sexual intercourse.
Conclusions: Given that fear of a positive result and low-risk perception are the most important reasons for not taking an HIV test, Internet interventions to motivate HIV testing among MSM should work to reduce fear of testing and increase awareness of risk factors for acquiring HIV. Additionally, campaigns targeting MSM should be designed to promote free voluntary counseling and testing services and health-care programs that provide free Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART) in Peru.
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