Anticipated HIV Stigma Among HIV Negative Men who have Sex with Men in China: A Cross-Sectional Study
No Place Like Home? Disentangling Preferences for HIV Testing Locations and Services Among Men Who Have Sex with Men in China. AIDS & Behavior. online first. abstract
Leading by Example: Online Sexual Health Influencers among Men who Have Sex with Men Have Higher HIV and Syphilis Testing Rates in China. Journal of Medical Internet Research. doi:10.2196/1017. abstract
Background: The spread of healthy behaviors through social networks may be accelerated by influential individuals. Previous studies have used lay health influencers to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among internet-using men who have sex with men (MSM). However, there is a lack of understanding of the characteristics of this key subset of MSM.
Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine socio-demographic characteristics, HIV/syphilis testing, and sexual behaviors of online MSM sexual health influencers (SHIs) in China, defined as individuals with relatively stronger influence on spreading HIV/STI information online.
Methods: An online survey of MSM was conducted in August 2017, as a final follow-up of a randomized controlled trial promoting HIV testing in eight Chinese cities. Men were recruited through a gay social networking mobile phone application and were included if they were born biologically male, aged 16 years and above, ever had sex with another man, and HIV negative or with unknown HIV status. Information regarding socio-demographic characteristics, sexual behaviors and HIV/syphilis testing was obtained. We also assessed men’s online sexual health influence using a standardized 6-item opinion leadership scale focused on HIV/STI information. Influencers were defined as those whose mean score ranked within the top 13% (a higher score means greater influence). We used multivariable linear/logistic regression models to measure association between being an influencer and HIV/syphilis testing and other related outcomes, controlling for intervention trial effects, age, education, income and marital status.
Results: Overall, 1031 men completed the survey. Most men were younger than 30 years old (819, 79.5%), and had at least college education (667, 64.7%). Influencers were more likely to get tested for HIV (55.3% vs 37.5%, p<0.001) and syphilis (26.5% vs 15.2%, p=0.001) in the last three months compared to non-influencers. There were no significant differences in condomless sex with male partners (19.7% vs 22.6%, p=0.46), mean number of male sex partners (1.32 vs 1.11, p=0.16) in the last three months, and mainly meeting male sex partners online in the last 12 months (73.5% vs 74.4%, p=0.82) between influencers and non-influencers. Regression analyses showed that influencers had higher odds of HIV testing (adjusted odds ratio [AOR]=2.16, 95% CI 1.48, 3.17) and syphilis testing (AOR=1.99, 95% CI 1.28, 3.10) in the last three months.
Conclusions: We identified online sexual health influencers who might be more likely to help promote healthy HIV testing behaviors through MSM populations. Leveraging existing influencers may help improve HIV/syphilis testing among their networks.
Transplantation or Rurality? Migration and HIV Risk among Chinese Men who have Sex with Men in the Urban Areas. Journal of International AIDS Society. 21(1):e25039. highlight
Receiving HIV Serostatus Disclosure from Partners Before Sex: Results from an Online Survey of Chinese Men Who Have Sex with Men and Transgender Individuals. AIDS & Behavior. (online first) abstract
This study showed that HIV serostatus disclosure from partners was uncommon among Chinese MSM. Interventions and further implementation research to facilitate safe disclosure are urgently needed for MSM.
Sex tourism among Chinese Men who have Sex with Men: A Cross-Sectional Observational Study. BMC Public Health. 18:306. abstract
Background: Sex tourism among men who have sex with men (MSM) may exacerbate transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Sex tourism is defined as purchasing sex with gifts or money outside of one’s hometown. Our objective was to characterize the frequency, socio-demographic characteristics, and sexual risk behaviors among Chinese MSM sex tourists.
Methods: An online, cross-sectional survey for high-risk MSM throughout China was conducted in November 2015 covering sociodemographic characteristics, sexual risk behaviors, and sex tourism. Univariate and multivariable logistic regressions were performed to identify correlates of sex tourism. The mean MSM HIV prevalence of sex tourism journey origins and destinations were compared.
Results: Of 1189 MSM who completed the survey, 62 (5%) men identified as sex tourists; among these sex tourists, twenty (32%) traveled primarily to purchase sex and the remainder purchased sex while traveling for another purpose. There was minimal socio-demographic and behavioral difference between the two groups. In multivariable analyses, adjusting for age and income, sex tourism was correlated with high-risk sexual behaviors, higher income (aOR 4.44, 95%CI 1.77–11.18) and living with HIV (aOR 2.79, 95%CI 1.03–7.55). Sex tourism was more often from locations with lower to higher MSM HIV prevalence (mean = 4.47, SD = 2.01 versus mean = 6.86, SD = 5.24).
Conclusion: MSM sex tourists were more likely to have risky sexual behaviors and travel to locations with a higher HIV prevalence. MSM sex tourists may be part of core groups that are disproportionately responsible for MSM HIV transmission. Enhanced surveillance and interventions tailored to MSM sex tourists should be considered.
Condom Use Social Norms and Self-efficacy with Different Kinds of Male Partners among Chinese Men who have Sex with Men: Results from an Online Survey. BMC Public Health. 18:1175. abstract
Background: Social norms and self-efficacy play important roles in promoting consistent condom use among men who have sex with men (MSM). Few studies have investigated the association between social norms, self-efficacy and consistent condom use with different kinds of male partners among MSM. We conducted an online survey of MSM to evaluate this in China.
Method: A cross-sectional online survey was conducted in 2015. Participants completed a validated questionnaire covering socio-demographic information, consistent condom use, condom use social norms and self-efficacy. Eligible participants were 16 or older, born biologically as a male, engaged in anal sex with a man at least once during their lifetime, engaged in condomless anal or vaginal sex in the last three months. In this study, we further restricted to people who had sex with male partners in the last three months. Participants were classified into three groups: engaged in sex only with regular partners, engaged in sex only with casual partners and engaged in sex with both regular partners and casual partners.
Result: Participants were recruited from 32 provinces in China. Among 1057 participants, 451(42.7%), 217(20.5%), and 389(36.8%) engaged in sex with regular partners only, casual partners only and both types in the last three months, respectively. Men engaged in sex only with regular partners in the last three months had a higher condom use self-efficacy than with other two types of partners (P < 0.01). Both social norms (regular partners: adjusted OR:1.59, 95% CI: 0.97–2.60; casual partners: adjusted OR: 1.58, 95% CI: 1.19–2.09; both types: adjusted OR: 1.48, 95% CI: 1.13–1.95) and self-efficacy (regular partners: adjusted OR: 2.88, 95% CI: 1.59–5.22; casual partners: adjusted OR: 2.35, 95% CI: 1.69–3.26; both types: adjusted OR: 2.45, 95% CI: 1.81–3.32) were positively associated with consistent condom use. No interaction effect was detected between condom social norms and self-efficacy on consistent condom use among Chinese MSM (p > 0.05).
Conclusion:Both social norms and self-efficacy were positively correlated with consistent condom use with any types of partners among Chinese MSM. Tailored interventions that aimed to improve social norms and self-efficacy has the potential to improve overall condom use among Chinese MSM.
Out of the Closet, Into the Clinic: Opportunities for Expanding MSM-Competent Services in China. Sexual Transmitted Diseases. 45(8): 527–533. abstract
Background: Despite the high human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) burden among men who have sex with men (MSM), there is little research on health services provided to MSM in China and other low- and middle-income countries. Discrimination and inadequate services may discourage MSM from seeking health care services. This study examined essential services provided to MSM and health care discrimination among MSM in China.
Method: A nationwide cross-sectional online survey was conducted among MSM who saw a physician in the last 24 months in China. The survey included items on sociodemographic information, HIV testing, experiences from the last physician encounter, and history of perceived health care discrimination. We defined MSM-competent physicians as physicians who asked their patient about having sex with other men, asked about anal sex, and either asked about or recommended HIV testing at the most recent visit.
Finding: Among the 503 participants, 35.0% (176/503) saw an MSM-competent physician. In multivariate analyses, respondents who saw an MSM-competent physician were more likely to be younger (adjusted odds ratio (AOR), 0.87; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.81–0.94), have a primary care physician (AOR, 3.24; 95% CI, 1.85–5.67), and be living with HIV (AOR, 2.01; 95% CI, 1.13–3.56). 61.2% (308/503) of MSM had ever experienced health care discrimination.
Conclusion: Our data suggest that there is variability in the extent to which physicians are meeting the needs of MSM in China. There is an urgent need to evaluate and expand MSM-competent services in China.
The Interaction between HIV Testing Social Norms and Self-efficacy on HIV Testing among Chinese Men who Have Sex with Men: Results from an Online Cross-Sectional Study. BMC Infectious Diseases. 18(1): 541. abstract
BACKGROUND: Increasing human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing is critical for HIV control. This study aimed to evaluate the interaction between social norms and self-efficacy on HIV testing among Chinese men who have sex with men (MSM).
METHODS: We conducted an online survey in eight Chinese cities in Shandong and Guangdong Provinces in July 2016. We included participants who were born as a male, at least 16 years old, currently living in one of the designated cities, and had ever engaged in anal sex with a man. We collected information regarding socio-demographics, high-risk behaviors, and history of HIV and other STI testing. We coded sensitivity to social norms using six items asking participants about their perceived social norm regarding HIV testing. We coded HIV testing self-efficacy using a separate six-item scale. We interpreted higher mean scores as higher sensitivity to social norms and higher self-efficacy, respectively. We conducted logistic regressions to evaluate the interaction between self-efficacy and social norms on HIV testing.
RESULTS: A total of 2105 men completed the survey. The mean age of the participants was 25.97 ± 6.42 years. Over four-fifths (85.9%) of participants were unmarried, 22.7% were students, and 64.6% at least had a college degree. 62.5 and 32.6% of participants ever and tested HIV in the last three months, respectively. With respect to uptake of HIV testing in the last three months, the adjusted odds ratio was 1.01(95% CI: 0.96-1.06) for higher sensitivity to social norms and 1.09 (95% CI: 1.05-1.14) for higher self-efficacy, with an interaction effect of 1.02 (95% CI: 1.01-1.03), respectively. With respect to uptake of lifetime HIV testing, the adjusted odds ratio was 1.03(95% CI: 0.99-1.07) for higher sensitivity to social norms and 1.15 (95% CI: 1.11-1.19) for higher self-efficacy, with an interaction effect of 1.02 (95% CI: 1.01-1.04), respectively.
CONCLUSIONS: Our survey demonstrated that there is a significant association between the uptake of HIV testing with sensitivity to the social norm, higher self-efficacy, as well as the interaction between them. Tailored studies for improving HIV testing among MSM in China can combine these two interventions together.
Crowdsourcing to Expand HIV Testing Services: A Closed Cohort Stepped Wedge Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial. PLoS Medicine. 15(8): e1002645. abstract
Background: HIV testing rates are suboptimal among at-risk men. Crowdsourcing may be a useful tool for designing innovative, community-based HIV testing strategies to increase HIV testing. The purpose of this study was to use a stepped wedge cluster randomized controlled trial (RCT) to evaluate the effect of a crowdsourced HIV intervention on HIV testing uptake among men who have sex with men (MSM) in eight Chinese cities.
Methods and findings: An HIV testing intervention was developed through a national image contest, a regional strategy designathon, and local message contests. The final intervention included a multimedia HIV testing campaign, an online HIV testing service, and local testing promotion campaigns tailored for MSM. This intervention was evaluated using a closed cohort stepped wedge cluster RCT in eight Chinese cities (Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, and Jiangmen in Guangdong province; Jinan, Qingdao, Yantai, and Jining in Shandong province) from August 2016 to August 2017. MSM were recruited through Blued, a social networking mobile application for MSM, from July 29 to August 21 of 2016. The primary outcome was self-reported HIV testing in the past 3 months. Secondary outcomes included HIV self-testing, facility-based HIV testing, condom use, and syphilis testing. Generalized linear mixed models (GLMMs) were used to analyze primary and secondary outcomes. We enrolled a total of 1,381 MSM. Most were ≤30 years old (82%), unmarried (86%), and had a college degree or higher (65%). The proportion of individuals receiving an HIV test during the intervention periods within a city was 8.9% (95% confidence interval [CI] 2.2–15.5) greater than during the control periods. In addition, the intention-to-treat analysis showed a higher probability of receiving an HIV test during the intervention periods as compared to the control periods (estimated risk ratio [RR] = 1.43, 95% CI 1.19–1.73). The intervention also increased HIV self-testing (RR = 1.89, 95% CI 1.50–2.38). There was no effect on facility-based HIV testing (RR = 1.00, 95% CI 0.79–1.26), condom use (RR = 1.00, 95% CI 0.86–1.17), or syphilis testing (RR = 0.92, 95% CI 0.70–1.21). A total of 48.6% (593/1,219) of participants reported that they received HIV self-testing. Among men who received two HIV tests, 32 individuals seroconverted during the 1-year study period. Study limitations include the use of self-reported HIV testing data among a subset of men and non-completion of the final survey by 23% of participants. Our study population was a young online group in urban China and the relevance of our findings to other populations will require further investigation.
Conclusions: In this setting, crowdsourcing was effective for developing and strengthening community-based HIV testing services for MSM. Crowdsourced interventions may be an important tool for the scale-up of HIV testing services among MSM in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC).
Coercion And HIV Self-Testing In Men Who Have Sex With Men: Implementation Data From A Cross-Sectional Survey In China. Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes. 77(2), pp.e22-e25.
Pressured HIV Testing in the Name of Love: A Mixed Methods Analysis of Pressured HIV Testing among Men who have Sex with Men in China. Journal of the International AIDS Society. 21(3), e25098. abstract
Introduction: HIV testing has rapidly expanded into diverse, decentralized settings. While increasing accessibility to HIV testing is beneficial, it may lead to unintended consequences such as being pressured to test. We examined the frequency, correlates and contexts of pressured HIV testing among Chinese men who have sex with men (MSM) using mixed methods.
Methods: We conducted an online survey of MSM (N = 1044) in May 2017. Pressured HIV testing was defined as being forced to test for HIV. We conducted logistic regression analysis to determine the associations between pressured HIV testing and socio‐demographic and sexual behavioural factors. Follow‐up interviews (n = 17) were conducted with men who reported pressured testing and we analysed qualitative data using a thematic analysis approach.
Results: Ninety‐six men (9.2%) reported experiencing pressure to test for HIV. Regular male sex partners were the most common source of pressure (61%, 59/96), and the most common form of pressure was a threat to end a relationship with the one who was being pressured (39%, 37/96). We found a higher risk of pressured testing in men who had only used HIV self‐testing compared to men who had never self‐tested (AOR 2.39 (95%CI: 1.38 to 4.14)). However, this relationship was only significant among men with low education (AOR 5.88 (95% CI: 1.92 to 17.99)) and not among men with high education (AOR 1.62 (95% CI: 0.85 to 3.10)). After pressured testing, about half of men subsequently tested for HIV (55%, 53/96) without pressure – none reported being diagnosed with HIV. Consistent with this finding, qualitative data suggest that perceptions of pressure existed on a continuum and depended on the relationship status of the one who pressured them. Although being pressured to test was accompanied by negative feelings, men who were pressured into testing often changed their attitude towards HIV testing, testing behaviours, sexual behaviours and relationship with the one who pressured them to test.
Conclusion: Pressured HIV testing was reported among Chinese MSM, especially from men with low education levels and men who received HIV self‐testing. However, in some circumstances, pressure to test helped MSM in several ways, challenging our understanding of the role of agency in the setting of HIV testing.
Crowdsourcing Designathon: A New Model for Multisectoral Collaboration. BMJ Innovations. (online first)
Community Engagement in Sexual Health and Uptake of HIV Testing and Syphilis Testing among MSM in China: A Cross-sectional Online Survey. Journal of the International AIDS Society. 20(1):21372. abstract
Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medical Cures for HIV: Rationale and Implications for HIV Cure Research. Global Public Health. 2017. abstract
Disclosure of Sexual Orientation to Health Professionals in China: Results from an Online Cross-Sectional Study. Journal of the International AIDS Society, 20(1), 21416. abstract
Social Media Engagement and HIV Testing Among Men Who Have Sex with Men in China. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 19(7), e251. abstract
Background: Many interventions find that social media engagement with health promotion materials can translate into behavioral changes. However, only a few studies have examined the ways in which specific actions on various social media platforms are correlated with health behaviors.
Objective: The objective of this study was to examine the association between social media use and HIV testing behaviors among Chinese men who have sex with men (MSM).
Methods: In July 2016, a Web-based survey was conducted to recruit MSM in 8 Chinese cities through Blued (Blue City Holdings Ltd.), the world’s largest gay mobile phone app. Data on sociodemographic variables, social media use platforms and behaviors, sexual behaviors, and HIV testing histories were collected. HIV testing–related social media use was defined as having ever engaged with HIV testing content on social media, which was further divided into observing (ie, receiving), endorsing (eg, liking and sharing), and contributing (eg, posting or commenting on HIV testing materials). Confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was conducted to determine the best division of HIV testing–related social media use. Univariate and multivariable logistic regressions were used to examine the association between HIV testing–related social media use and HIV testing behaviors.
Results: A total of 2105 individuals participated in the survey. Among them, 46.75% (984) were under the age of 24 years, 35.43% (746) had high school education or less, and 47.74% (587) had condomless sex in the last 3 months. More than half of the respondents (58.14%, 1224/2105) reported HIV testing–related social media use. Additionally, HIV testing–related social media use, especially on multifunctional platforms such as WeChat, was found to be associated with recent HIV testing (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 2.32, 95% CI 1.66-3.24). Contributing on social media was correlated with recent HIV testing (aOR 2.10, 95% CI 1.40-3.16), but neither observing (aOR 0.66, 95% CI 0.38-1.15) nor endorsing (aOR 1.29, 95% CI 0.88-1.90) were correlated.
Conclusions: Our data suggest that social media use, particularly on multifunctional platforms such as WeChat and with contributing behaviors, is correlated with HIV testing among MSM in China. Campaigns that promote active participant contribution on social media beyond passive observation and endorsement of promotional materials are needed. This study has implications for the design and implementation of social media interventions to promote HIV testing.
Faster and Riskier? Online Context of Sex Seeking Among Men Who Have Sex with Men in China. Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 44(4), 239-244. abstract
Background: Many men who have sex with men (MSM) seek sex partners online, creating barriers and opportunities for human immunodeficiency virus prevention. The purpose of this study was to examine the characteristics of MSM and the risks associated with seeking sex through websites, gay apps, and both platforms in China.
Methods: Data were collected through a cross-sectional online survey from September through October 2014 from 3 large gay Web portals. Sociodemographic information, sexual behaviors, and online sex seeking behaviors were measured. Multinomial logistic regression was performed to compare sexual risk behaviors among website users, gay app users, and men who used both platforms.
Results: Of the 1201 participants, 377 (31.4%) were website-only users, 487 (40.5%) were gay app-only users, and 337 (28.0%) were men who used both platforms. These 3 MSM subgroups have distinct sociodemographic characteristics. Overall, 57.6% of participants reported having engaged in condomless anal sex with their last male partner in the past 6 months, but there was no significant difference in condomless sex between the 3 groups. Men who used both platforms viewed more sexually transmitted disease-related messages than website-only users (adjusted odds ratio, 2.19; 95% confidence interval, 1.57–3.05).
Conclusions: Condom usage behaviors were unaffected by the medium through which sexual partners were found. However, the high frequency of condomless sex suggests that websites and gay apps are both risk environments. This study suggests using multiple platforms for human immunodeficiency virus/sexually transmitted disease social media interventions may be useful.
Background: HIV testing for marginalized populations is critical to controlling the HIV epidemic. However, the HIV testing rate among men who have sex with men (MSM) in China remains low. Crowdsourcing, the process of shifting individual tasks to a group, has been increasingly adopted in public health programs and may be a useful tool for spurring innovation in HIV testing campaigns. We designed a multi-site study to develop a crowdsourced HIV test promotion campaign and evaluate its effectiveness against conventional campaigns among MSM in China.
Methods: This study will use an adaptation of the stepped wedge, randomized controlled trial design. A total of eight major metropolitan cities in China will be randomized to sequentially initiate interventions at 3-month intervals. The intervention uses crowdsourcing at multiple steps to sustain crowd contribution. Approximately 1280 MSM, who are 16 years of age or over, live in the intervention city, have not been tested for HIV in the past 3 months, and are not living with HIV, will be recruited. Recruitment will take place through banner advertisements on a large gay dating app along with other social media platforms. Participants will complete one follow-up survey every 3 months for 12 months to evaluate their HIV testing uptake in the past 3 months and secondary outcomes including syphilis testing, sex without condoms, community engagement, testing stigma, and other related outcomes.
Discussion: MSM HIV testing rates remain poor in China. Innovative methods to promote HIV testing are urgently needed. With a large-scale, stepped wedge, randomized controlled trial our study can improve understanding of crowdsourcing’s long-term effectiveness in public health campaigns, expand HIV testing coverage among a key population, and inform intervention design in related public health fields.
Will Gay Sex-seeking Mobile Phone Applications Facilitate Group Sex?: A Cross-Sectional Online Survey among Men who have Sex with Men in China. PloS one, 11(11), e0167238. abstract
Introduction: China is amidst a sexual revolution, with changing sexual practices and behaviors. Sex–seeking mobile phone applications (gay apps) that allow multiple people to meet up quickly may facilitate group sex. This study was therefore undertaken to evaluate group sex among Chinese MSM and to better understand factors associated with group sex.
Methods: An online survey was conducted from September-October 2014, collecting data on socio-demographics, sexual behaviors, use of gay apps and occurrence of group sex among Chinese MSM. Univariate and multivariable logistic regressions were used to compare group sex and non-group sex participants.
Results: Of the 1,424 MSM, the majority were under 30 years old (77.5%), unmarried (83.9%), and were gay apps users (57.9%). Overall, 141 (9.9%) participants engaged in group sex in the last 12 months. Multivariate analyses showed that men living with HIV, engaged in condomless anal intercourse with men, and used gay apps were more likely to engage in group sex, with adjusted ORs of 3.74 (95% CI 1.92–7.28), 2.88 (95% CI 2.00–4.16) and 1.46 (95% CI: 1.00–2.13), respectively. Among gay app users, the likelihood of group sex increases with the number of sex partners and the number of sex acts with partners met through a gay app.
Conclusions: Chinese MSM who engage in group sex are also more likely to engage in other risky sexual behaviors, and gay app use may facilitate group sex. Further research is needed among MSM who engage in group sex in order to target interventions and surveillance.
Introduction: Crowdsourcing has been used to spur innovation and increase community engagement in public health programmes. Crowdsourcing is the process of giving individual tasks to a large group, often involving open contests and enabled through multisectoral partnerships. Here we describe one crowdsourced video intervention in which a video promoting condom use is produced through an open contest. The aim of this study is to determine whether a crowdsourced intervention is as effective as a social marketing intervention in promoting condom use among high-risk men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender male-to-female (TG) in China.
Method: We evaluate videos developed by crowdsourcing and social marketing. The crowdsourcing contest involved an open call for videos. Entries were judged on capacity to promote condom use, to be shareable or ‘go viral’ and to give value to the individual. 1170 participants will be recruited for the randomised controlled trial. Participants need to be MSM age 16 and over who have had condomless anal sex in the last 3 months. Recruitment will be through an online banner ad on a popular MSM web page and other social media platforms. After completing an initial survey, participants will be randomly assigned to view either the social marketing video or the crowdsourcing video. Follow-up surveys will be completed at 3 weeks and 3 months after initial intervention to evaluate condomless sex and related secondary outcomes. Secondary outcomes include condom social norms, condom negotiation, condom self-efficacy, HIV/syphilis testing, frequency of sex acts and incremental cost.
Physician Perceptions of HIV Cure in China: A Mixed Methods Review and Implications for HIV Cure Research. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Disease, 5(9), 687-690. abstract