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MSM Outside "Gay Ghettos" Less Likely to Get Tested for HIV
by Jon Garbo

A study comparing men who have sex with men (MSM) who live in neighborhoods highly populated by gay people (gay ghettos) versus those who donít has found that non-ghetto-dwelling MSM are considerably less likely to get tested for HIV. The study, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Mental Health, was published in the June 2001 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

When it comes to prevention strategies, one size does not fit all.
Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) conducted telephone interviews with 2,881 MSM in San Francisco, CA, New York, NY, Los Angeles, CA, and Chicago, IL, between November 15, 1996 and March 1, 1998. Almost 80 percent of respondents were Caucasian, 10 percent Latino and 5 percent African American -- an under-representation of men of color, according to the study. Respondents were identified through random digit dialing and classified by zip code. For each city, the zip code with the highest number of MSM was identified as the gay ghetto.

The study found that 13 percent of non-ghetto-dwelling MSM had never been tested for HIV, compared to 9 percent of ghetto-dwelling MSM, a difference of around 45 percent. Around ten percent of MSM overall reported having had unprotected anal or vaginal sex in the year prior to the study. In addition, non-ghetto-dwelling MSM were around twice as likely to identify as bisexual or heterosexual and to have had a female sex partner in the previous year, compared to ghetto-dwellers. Non-ghetto-dwelling MSM also had less access to the gay media, and were less open about their sexuality and less involved with the gay community.

"Gay media-based community-level interventions cannot be expected to reach non-ghetto dwellers as effectively as they would ghetto-dwellers," the study authors wrote.

To reach non-ghetto-dwelling MSM, public health workers should take into account characteristics unique to this population and tailor their prevention strategies accordingly. "Depending on the type of neighborhood, different strategies might be better than others. One size does not fit all," Ron Stall, Ph.D. M.P.H., co-author of the study, told Dr. Stall, a UCSF researcher at the time of the study, is the chief of the Behavioral Intervention Research Branch of the CDCís Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention.

Updated: Friday, 8 June 2001


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