Mbeda C, Ogendo A, Lando R, Schnabel D, Gust DA, Guo X, Akelo V, Dominguez K, Panchia R, Mbilizi Y, Chen Y, Chege W, Sandfort TG. Healthcare-Related Stigma among Men Who Have Sex with Men and Transgender Women in Sub-Saharan Africa Participating in Hiv Prevention Trials Network Hptn 075 Study. AIDS Care. 2020, 32: 1052-1060. PMC7368806
The inability to access health services when needed is a critical barrier to HIV prevention, treatment and care among men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women (TGW). Using data collected in HPTN 075, we explored factors associated with any experienced healthcare-related stigma. HPTN 075 was a cohort study to assess the feasibility of recruiting and retaining MSM and TGW in clinical trials in sub-Saharan Africa. Of 401 MSM and TGW enrolled at four sites (Kisumu, Kenya; Blantyre, Malawi; Cape Town, Soweto, South Africa) 397 contributed to the analysis (79.9% cis-gender and 20.1% TGW). Of these, (45.3%; 180/397) reported one or more of healthcare-related stigma experiences. Most frequently reported experiences included fear to seek healthcare services (36.3%) and avoiding seeking such services because of the discovery of MSM status (29.2%). Few men and TGW (2.5%) reported having been denied health services because of having sex with men. In multivariable analysis, more participants in Soweto [adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 2.60] and fewer participants in Blantyre (AOR = 0.27) reported any healthcare-related stigma experiences, in comparison to participants in Kisumu. MSM and TGW that did not have a supportive gay community to rely on were more likely to report any healthcare-related stigma experiences (AOR = 1.46), whereas MSM and TGW who reported high social support and who never had engaged in transactional sex were less likely to report such experiences (AOR = 0.76 and AOR = 0.43, respectively). Our results suggest that encouraging support groups for MSM and TGW as well as training and sensitizing healthcare staff, and the general community, on MSM and TGW health issues and cultural competence may reduce stigma, improve access to healthcare, which could ultimately reduce HIV transmission.