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Places and people: the perceptions of men who have sex with men concerning STI testing: a qualitative study

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      Abstract

      Objectives

      To explore the experiences and views of men who have sex with men (MSM) on attending clinical sexual health services and their preferences regarding service characteristics in the context of the disproportionate burden of STIs experienced by this group. The wider study aim was to develop a risk assessment tool for use in sexual health clinics.

      Methods

      Qualitative study comprising eight focus group discussions with 61 MSM in four English cities. Topics included: experience of attending sexual health services, perceptions of norms of attendance among MSM, knowledge of, and attitudes towards, STIs and views on ‘being researched.’ Discussions were audio-recorded and transcribed and a thematic data analysis conducted.

      Results

      Attending sexual health services for STI testing was described as embarrassing by some and some clinic procedures were thought to compromise confidentiality. Young men seeking STI testing were particularly sensitive to feelings of awkwardness and self-consciousness. Black and ethnic minority men were concerned about being exposed in their communities. The personal qualities of staff were seen as key features of sexual health services. Participants wanted staff to be friendly, professional, discreet, knowledgeable and non-judgemental.

      Conclusions

      A range of opinion on the type of STI service men preferred was expressed with some favouring generic sexual and reproductive health clinics and others favouring specialist community-based services. There was consensus on the qualities they would like to see in healthcare staff. The knowledge, conduct and demeanour of staff could exacerbate or ameliorate unease associated with attending for STI testing.

      Related collections

      Most cited references 30

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      The social structural production of HIV risk among injecting drug users.

      There is increasing appreciation of the need to understand how social and structural factors shape HIV risk. Drawing on a review of recently published literature, we seek to describe the social structural production of HIV risk associated with injecting drug use. We adopt an inclusive definition of the HIV 'risk environment' as the space, whether social or physical, in which a variety of factors exogenous to the individual interact to increase vulnerability to HIV. We identify the following factors as critical in the social structural production of HIV risk associated with drug injecting: cross-border trade and transport links; population movement and mixing; urban or neighbourhood deprivation and disadvantage; specific injecting environments (including shooting galleries and prisons); the role of peer groups and social networks; the relevance of 'social capital' at the level of networks, communities and neighbourhoods; the role of macro-social change and political or economic transition; political, social and economic inequities in relation to ethnicity, gender and sexuality; the role of social stigma and discrimination in reproducing inequity and vulnerability; the role of policies, laws and policing; and the role of complex emergencies such as armed conflict and natural disasters. We argue that the HIV risk environment is a product of interplay in which social and structural factors intermingle but where political-economic factors may play a predominant role. We therefore emphasise that much of the most needed 'structural HIV prevention' is unavoidably political in that it calls for community actions and structural changes within a broad framework concerned to alleviate inequity in health, welfare and human rights.
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        Barriers to HIV testing in Europe: a systematic review.

        In the European Union (EU) and neighbouring countries, HIV/AIDS, of all infectious diseases, has one of the highest morbidity and mortality rates. An estimated 30% of people living with HIV are unaware of their infection, and may therefore not benefit from timely treatment or may transmit HIV to others, unknowingly. Evidence shows that opportunities are being missed to diagnose HIV infections in EU Member States, particularly in regular health care settings. There is a need to better understand the barriers to HIV testing and counselling with the aim to contribute to the decrease of the number of undiagnosed people. A systematic review of literature on HIV testing barriers in Europe was conducted, applying a free text strategy with a set of search terms. A total of 24 studies published in international peer-reviewed journals and meeting the review's eligibility criteria were identified. Fourteen studies report on barriers at the level of the patient; six on barriers at health care provider level and seven on institutional barriers referring to the policy level. The barriers described are centralized around low-risk perception; fear and worries; accessibility of health services, reluctance to address HIV and to offer the test; and scarcity of financial and well trained human resources. Some barriers to HIV testing and counselling have been illustrated in the literature. Nevertheless, there is lack of structured information on barriers considering (i) legal, administrative and financial factors, (ii) attitudes and practices of health care providers and (iii) perception of patients. Such data is critical to improve effectiveness of HIV testing and counselling.
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          Stigma, HIV and AIDS: an exploration and elaboration of a stigma trajectory.

          Stigma is a social construction which dramatically affects the life experiences of the individuals infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and their partners, family and friends. While it has been generally recognized that the nature of stigma varies across illnesses, it has usually not been considered as changing and emerging over the course of a single illness. In this paper, HIV/AIDS is analyzed in terms of a stigma trajectory. The primary purpose is to conceptualize how individuals with HIV/AIDS experience stigma and to demonstrate how these experiences are affected by changes in the biophysical dimensions of HIV/AIDS. Four phases of the HIV/AIDS stigma trajectory are depicted: (1) at risk: pre-stigma and the worried well; (2) diagnosis: confronting an altered identity; (3) latent: living between illness and health; and (4) manifest: passage to social and physical death. The essential processes through which individuals personalize the illness, dilemmas encountered in interpersonal relations, strategies that are used to avoid or minimize HIV-related stigma, and subcultural networks and ideologies that are drawn upon to construct, avow, and adapt to an HIV identity are considered across the stigma trajectory.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [1 ] departmentDepartment of Social and Environmental Health Research , London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine , London, UK
            [2 ] departmentCentre for Infectious Disease Surveillance and Control , Public Health England , London, UK
            [3 ] departmentDepartment of Infection and Population Health , University College London , London, UK
            Author notes
            [Correspondence to ] Peter Weatherburn, Sigma Research, Department of Social and Environmental Health Research, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, 15-17 Tavistock Place, London, WC1H 9SH, UK; peter.weatherburn@ 123456lshtm.ac.uk
            Journal
            Sex Transm Infect
            Sex Transm Infect
            sextrans
            sti
            Sexually Transmitted Infections
            BMJ Publishing Group (BMA House, Tavistock Square, London, WC1H 9JR )
            1368-4973
            1472-3263
            February 2018
            4 August 2017
            : 94
            : 1
            : 46-50
            28778980 5800331 sextrans-2016-052983 10.1136/sextrans-2016-052983
            © Article author(s) (or their employer(s) unless otherwise stated in the text of the article) 2018. All rights reserved. No commercial use is permitted unless otherwise expressly granted.

            This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/

            Product
            Funding
            Funded by: FundRef http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/501100001921, Public Health Research Programme;
            Categories
            Behaviour
            1506
            550
            Original article
            Custom metadata
            unlocked

            Sexual medicine

            qualitative research, sexual health, gay men, hiv testing

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