A Qualitative Exploration of Sexual Risk and HIV Testing Behaviors Among Men Who Have Sex with Men in Beirut, Lebanon
Published in: PLoS ONE, v. 7, no. 9, e45566, Sep. 2012, p. 1-7
Men who have sex with men (MSM) may account for most new HIV infections in Lebanon, yet little is known about the factors that influence sexual risk behavior and HIV testing in this population. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 31 MSM living in Beirut, and content analysis was used to identify emergent themes. Mean age of the participants was 28.4 years, and all identified as either gay (77%) or bisexual (23%). Half reported not using condoms consistently and one quarter had not been HIV-tested. Many described not using condoms with a regular partner in the context of a meaningful relationship, mutual HIV testing, and a desire to not use condoms, suggesting that trust, commitment and intimacy play a role in condom use decisions. Condoms were more likely to be used with casual partners, partners believed to be HIV-positive, and with partners met online where men found it easier to candidly discuss HIV risk. Fear of infection motivated many to get HIV tested and use condoms, but such affect also led some to avoid HIV testing in fear of disease and social stigma if found to be infected. Respondents who were very comfortable with their sexual orientation and who had disclosed their sexuality to family and parents tended to be more likely to use condoms consistently and be tested for HIV. These findings indicate that similar factors influence the condom use and HIV testing of MSM in Beirut as those observed in studies elsewhere of MSM; hence, prevention efforts in Lebanon can likely benefit from lessons learned and interventions developed in other regions, particularly for younger, gay-identified men. Further research is needed to determine how prevention efforts may need to be tailored to address the needs of men who are less integrated into or do not identify with the gay community.