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A qualitative assessment of health seeking practices among and provision practices for men who have sex with men in Malawi

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      In the context of a generalized epidemic and criminalization of homosexuality, men who have sex with men (MSM) in Malawi have a disproportionate burden of HIV compared to other adults. Past research has documented low uptake of HIV prevention and health services among MSM, self-reported fear of seeking health services, and concerns of disclosure of sexual orientation and discrimination in health settings. Qualitative research was conducted among MSM and health service providers in Blantyre, Malawi to understand underlying factors related to disclosure and health seeking behaviors and inform the development of a community-based comprehensive HIV prevention intervention.


      Using peer recruitment, eight MSM participants representing a range of ages, orientations, and social and behavioral characteristics were enrolled for in-depth interviews. Five service providers were recruited from the district hospital, local health and STI clinics, and a HIV prevention service organization. We use the Health Belief Model as a framework to interpret the influential factors on 1) health seeking and uptake among MSM, and 2) influences on provision of services by healthcare providers for MSM.


      Results highlight disclosure fears among MSM and, among providers, a lack of awareness and self-efficacy to provide care in the face of limited information and political support. Service providers reported concerns of adverse repercussions related to the provision of services to men in same sex sexual relationships. Some MSM demonstrated awareness of HIV risk but believed that within the wider MSM community, there was a general lack of HIV information for MSM, low awareness of appropriate prevention, and low perception of risks related to HIV infection.


      Qualitative research highlights the need for appropriate information on both HIV risks and acceptable, effective HIV prevention options for MSM. Information and educational opportunities should be available to the wider MSM community and the health sector. Health sector interventions may serve to increase cultural and clinical competency to address health problems experienced by MSM. To ensure availability and use of services in light of the criminalization and stigmatization of same sex practices, there is need to increase the safety of uptake and provision of these services for MSM.

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      Most cited references 55

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      The Health Belief Model: A Decade Later

       N K Janz,  M H Becker (1984)
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        Global epidemiology of HIV infection in men who have sex with men.

        Epidemics of HIV in men who have sex with men (MSM) continue to expand in most countries. We sought to understand the epidemiological drivers of the global epidemic in MSM and why it continues unabated. We did a comprehensive review of available data for HIV prevalence, incidence, risk factors, and the molecular epidemiology of HIV in MSM from 2007 to 2011, and modelled the dynamics of HIV transmission with an agent-based simulation. Our findings show that the high probability of transmission per act through receptive anal intercourse has a central role in explaining the disproportionate disease burden in MSM. HIV can be transmitted through large MSM networks at great speed. Molecular epidemiological data show substantial clustering of HIV infections in MSM networks, and higher rates of dual-variant and multiple-variant HIV infection in MSM than in heterosexual people in the same populations. Prevention strategies that lower biological transmission and acquisition risks, such as approaches based on antiretrovirals, offer promise for controlling the expanding epidemic in MSM, but their potential effectiveness is limited by structural factors that contribute to low health-seeking behaviours in populations of MSM in many parts of the world. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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          Burden of HIV among female sex workers in low-income and middle-income countries: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

          Female sex workers are a population who are at heightened risk of HIV infection secondary to biological, behavioural, and structural risk factors. However, three decades into the HIV pandemic, understanding of the burden of HIV among these women remains limited. We aimed to assess the burden of HIV in this population compared with that of other women of reproductive age. We searched PubMed, Embase, Global Health, SCOPUS, PsycINFO, Sociological Abstracts, CINAHL (Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature), Web of Science, and POPLine for studies of female sex workers in low-income and middle-income countries published between Jan 1, 2007, and June 25, 2011. Studies of any design that measured the prevalence or incidence of HIV among female sex workers, even if sex workers were not the main focus of the study, were included. Meta-analyses were done with the Mantel-Haenszel method with a random-effects model characterising an odds ratio for the prevalence of HIV among female sex workers compared with that for all women of reproductive age. Of 434 selected articles and surveillance reports, 102 were included in the analyses, representing 99,878 female sex workers in 50 countries. The overall HIV prevalence was 11·8% (95% CI 11·6-12·0) with a pooled odds ratio for HIV infection of 13·5 (95% CI 10·0-18·1) with wide intraregional ranges in the pooled HIV prevalence and odds ratios for HIV infection. In 26 countries with medium and high background HIV prevalence, 30·7% (95% CI 30·2-31·3; 8627 of 28,075) of sex workers were HIV-positive and the odds ratio for infection was 11·6 (95% CI 9·1-14·8). Although data characterising HIV risk among female sex workers is scarce, the burden of disease is disproportionately high. These data suggest an urgent need to scale up access to quality HIV prevention programmes. Considerations of the legal and policy environments in which sex workers operate and actions to address the important role of stigma, discrimination, and violence targeting female sex workers is needed. The World Bank, UN Population Fund. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

            Author and article information

            [1 ]Center for Public Health and Human Rights, Department of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 615 N. Wolfe St., Room E7144, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA
            [2 ]Johns Hopkins Medical Institute, Baltimore, USA
            [3 ]Center for the Development of People, Blantyre, Malawi
            [4 ]Malawi College of Medicine, Blantyre, Malawi
            [5 ]Centre for Global Health, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
            [6 ]Jhpiego, Washington, DC, USA
            BMC Int Health Hum Rights
            BMC Int Health Hum Rights
            BMC International Health and Human Rights
            BioMed Central
            3 June 2014
            : 14
            : 20
            24893654 4049421 1472-698X-14-20 10.1186/1472-698X-14-20
            Copyright © 2014 Wirtz et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

            This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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