Stigmatization of men who have sex with men in health care settings in East Africa is based more on perceived gender role-inappropriate mannerisms than having sex with men

Michael W. Ross, John Kashiha, Lucy R. Mgopa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Healthcare Workers may stigmatize and discriminate against Men who have Sex with Men in East Africa. Objective: To understand the predictors of abuse and discrimination of sexual minority men in healthcare settings by Healthcare workers in seven cities in Tanzania. Method: In total, 300 sexual minority men over the age of 18 were interviewed in 7 Tanzanian cities by trained local interviewers. Abuse from others (physical, verbal, sexual, discrimination/humiliation), and abuse from Healthcare workers, was ascertained. Gender role mannerisms were self-rated by the respondent, and at the end of the interview, by the interviewer, on a Likert scale from very feminine to very masculine. Respondents also indicated whether they had revealed their homosexual behavior or had it exposed in the health consultation. Results: Median age was 27. Verbal abuse and community discrimination were the most commonly reported forms of abuse. Eighty-four percent had visited a healthcare center with a sexually related complaint (usually a sexually transmitted infection); of these, 24% reported abuse or discrimination from from a healthcare worker. Correlation between self-rated gender role mannerisms and interviewer-rated was r = 0.84. Regression analysis indicated that the degree of perceived gender role nonconformity was the major and significant predictor from Healthcare worker abuse: confirmation of homosexual behavior was non-significant. Gender role nonconformity predicted 21% of the variance in health worker abuse. Conclusion: There is speculation that abuse of sexual minority men by Healthcare workers in public clinics is due to factors in addition to their sexual behavior as gay/bisexual, and that it is due to violating perceived gender roles. Data confirm that perceived feminine gender role is a significant predictor, of abuse in healthcare and other settings. Common confusion between homosexual behavior and gender role norms may trigger discrimination, which may be as much due to violation of perceived gender roles as having sex with other men.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1816526
JournalGlobal Health Action
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 31 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by an Innovation grant from the University of Minnesota Medical School to the first author. We much appreciate the interviewers? intensive and careful work under difficult conditions.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Africa
  • Health discrimination
  • bisexual
  • gay
  • gender role


Dive into the research topics of 'Stigmatization of men who have sex with men in health care settings in East Africa is based more on perceived gender role-inappropriate mannerisms than having sex with men'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this