Background: Men who have sex with men are at high risk for HIV infection. Here we report the results of the first assessment of HIV prevalence and risk behaviour in this group in Vientiane, Lao People's Democratic Republic.
Methods: Between August and September 2007, 540 men were enrolled from venues around Vientiane, using venue-day-time sampling. Men of Lao nationality, 15 years and over, reporting oral or anal sex with a man in the previous 6 months were eligible for participation. Demographic and socio-behavioural information was self-collected using hand-held computers. Oral fluid was tested for HIV infection. Logistic regression was used to evaluate risk factors for prevalent HIV infection.
Results: The median age of participants was 21 years; the HIV prevalence was 5.6%. Of participants, 39.6% reported exclusive attraction to men and 57.6% reported sex with women. Of those who reported having regular and nonregular sexual partner(s) in the past 3 months, consistent condom use with these partners was 14.4 and 24.2%, respectively. A total of 42.2% self-reported any sexually transmitted infection symptoms and 6.3% had previously been tested for HIV. Suicidal ideation was reported by 17.0%, which was the only variable significantly and independently associated with HIV infection in multivariate analysis.
Conclusion: Although the HIV prevalence is low compared with neighbouring countries in the region, men who have sex with men in Lao People's Democratic Republic are at high behavioural risk for HIV infection. To prevent a larger HIV epidemic occurrence and transmission into the broader community, higher coverage of HIV prevention interventions is required.