Since the beginning of the epidemic, HIV has disproportionately affected gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) in Canada. Of the estimated 71,300 people living with HIV in Canada in 2011 (prevalence), 50% were in MSM. Furthermore, an estimated 50% of all new HIV infections in 2011 (incidence) were among MSM, a rate that has remained generally steady across time. Owing to the continuing high rates of HIV prevalence and incidence among MSM, there is a pressing need to understand the attitudes, opinions and behaviours of MSM -- and their HIV prevention needs -- in order to inform and improve education, policies and programs.
Recently, two important research projects have sought to meet these needs by conducting 1) a national toll-free telephone survey among MSM across Canada and 2) a survey of Canadian AIDS Service Organizations (ASOs) working in MSM health.
The national telephone survey -- "Male Call Canada" -- was a bilingual, university-community collaboration undertaken by academic and community investigators from across Canada. This study aimed to better understand the social contexts of MSM, their attitudes and knowledge towards sex, sexuality, health and well-being, and their understanding of risk behaviours related to HIV and STIs. MSM were recruited through a variety of different mechanisms (including traditional classified advertisements and social media campaigns) and encouraged to volunteer to be interviewed by calling an anonymous toll-free telephone line.
Between October 2011 and February 2012, over 1,200 interviews were conducted over the phone. Calls were received from all of Canada's provinces and territories. The average age of respondents was 45 years (range 16-89), and the majority (68%) lived in an urban setting. Most respondents (55%) self-identified as gay, with the remainder identifying as straight, bisexual, queer, two-spirit or other. Nationally, 6.6% reported that they were living with HIV.
Some examples of key findings are:
A related project surveyed Canadian ASOs to gain insight into research needs for sexual health promotion among MSM. In total, 34 staff persons from the Atlantic (13%), Ontario (33%), Pacific (10%), Prairies (13%) and Quebec (30%) regions completed the on-line survey.
Based on the survey results, the investigators made a series of research, programming and policy recommendations, such as the need for:
The final report includes additional recommendations and identifies the ongoing and evolving needs of MSM based on a comparison with previous surveys/assessments.
The "Male Call Canada" survey has added to our understanding of the behaviours, knowledge, attitudes and opinions of MSM living in Canada. The findings can be used by those working in HIV to help inform community-level discussions and shape programming and research for this population. The related survey of Canadian ASOs can help organizations, funders and policy makers gain a better understanding of research, programming and policy needs and help to better develop programming and policies for MSM in Canada.
Sexually transmitted infections and HIV transmission -- CATIE Fact sheet
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