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Men Who Have Sex With Men: Perceptions About Sexual Risk, HIV and Sexually Transmitted Disease Testing, and Provider Communication

Mimiaga, Matthew J. MPH*†; Goldhammer, Hilary ScM*; Belanoff, Candice MPH; Tetu, Ashley M. BS*‡; Mayer, Kenneth H. MD

doi: 10.1097/

Objectives: This study was designed to gain a deeper understanding of the barriers and facilitators related to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and HIV screening among at-risk Boston men who have sex with men (MSM).

Study Design: The cohort was recruited by a modified respondent-driven sampling technique and used one-on-one semistructured interviews and a quantitative survey to examine participants' understanding of STDs and HIV, perceptions of risk for disease, reasons for getting (or not getting) tested, and experiences with testing.

Results: The study found that although most of the MSM knew the signs and symptoms of HIV, they were less familiar with STDs. MSM were most likely to be screened if they had symptoms or were told by a partner of a recent exposure. However, many barriers to STD/HIV screening among MSM still exist, including lack of awareness of symptoms, misperceptions about the ways STDs are transmitted, and perceived impediments from the healthcare system, including misgivings about provider sensitivity.

Conclusions: To decrease current increases in HIV/STDs among MSM, new strategies that include community and provider education are needed.

A qualitative study was conducted of men who have sex with men regarding perceptions and understanding of HIV and sexually transmitted disease risk and testing, which found that significant gaps in knowledge and misperceptions are still pervasive.

From *The Fenway Institute, Fenway Community Health, Boston, Massachusetts; †Harvard University, School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts; ‡Boston University, School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts; and §Brown University, School of Medicine/Miriam Hospital, Providence, Rhode Island

The authors thank the Community Advisory Board of Fenway Community Health; the staff of Online Buddies; AIDS Action; Sydney Borum Health Center; Latin American Health Institute; The Living Center; Wayne Wright Resource Center; Meg Stone, Rob Fredericksen, Jake Tinsley, Jim Maynard, Roger Cuevas, Rek Kwawer, Julie Ebin, and Chris Grasso of The Fenway Institute, Fenway Community Health; and the participants who made this study possible.

This work was supported by the HIV/AIDS Bureau, MA, Department of Public Health and the Communicable Disease Bureau, STD Prevention Division of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Correspondence: Kenneth H. Mayer, MD, The Fenway Institute, Fenway Community Health, Prudential Tower, 4th Floor, 800 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02199. E-mail:

Received for publication January 20, 2006, and accepted April 24, 2006.

© Copyright 2007 American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association