Association of same-sex criminalisation laws and national HIV policies with HIV testing in African MSM: an ecological single-level and multilevel cross-sectional study of sub-Saharan African countries

Ngozi Kalu, Michael W. Ross, Miriam Taegtmeyer, Erik Lamontagne, Sean Howell, Melissa Neuman

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Abstract

Background HIV incidence among men who have sex with men (MSM) in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) remains high compared with the general population. Many countries in the region still criminalise consensual homosexual relationships, and some are yet to adopt WHO-recommended interventions for MSM into national HIV policies. This study examines how HIV testing of adult MSM in SSA varies according to the legal climate and presence of targeted HIV policy using data from the cross-sectional 2019 Global LGBTI Internet Survey study. Methods Using data from 3191 MSM in 44 SSA countries, we assessed associations of legal climate and HIV policy with ever and recent HIV testing using linear ecological and logistic multilevel analyses. From the single-level analysis, we can compare our findings to previously reported data, then, extending to a two-level multilevel analysis, we account for the hierarchical structure of the population and simultaneously adjust for differences in context and composition in each country. We then test the sensitivity of our analyses to excluding countries from the model. Results We find evidence that legalised same-sex relationships were associated with increased odds of ever testing (OR=2.00, 95% CI 1.04, 3.82) in multilevel analyses. We also find evidence of an association of targeted HIV policies with increased odds of ever testing (OR=2.49, 95% CI 1.12, 5.52). We did not find evidence of an association of the legal climate (OR=1.01, 95% CI 0.69, 1.46) and targeted HIV policies (OR=1.26, 95% CI 0.78, 2.04) with recent testing. Conclusions This study suggests elimination of discriminatory laws and policies might be important for increasing HIV status awareness of MSM, an important first step in epidemic control. Additionally, we highlight heterogeneity between South Africa and other SSA countries, which has implications for studying SSA countries as a homogeneous group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)150-157
Number of pages8
JournalSexually transmitted infections
Volume100
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2024

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