HIV-Related Conspiracy Beliefs and Its Relationships With HIV Testing and Unprotected Sex Among Men Who Have Sex With Men in Tshwane (Pretoria), South Africa

The authors set out to determine the extent to which Pretoria MSM endorse HIV conspiracy beliefs. The team also sought to learn whether endorsing conspiracy beliefs about HIV is associated with never testing for the virus and with using condoms inconsistently.

Between February and August 2009, a cross-sectional survey was conducted using respondent-driven sampling. "A high proportion of respondents endorsed HIV conspiracy beliefs," the authors reported. Fifty-one percent of MSM endorsed the belief that AIDS information is being withheld from the public; 25.5 percent endorsed the belief that HIV is a man-made virus; and about 20 percent endorsed the idea that humans are being used as guinea pigs in HIV treatment and research.

MSM who identified as bisexual or heterosexual were significantly more likely to endorse conspiracy beliefs compared to MSM who identified as homosexual (38.5 percent versus 14.7 percent). Endorsing HIV conspiracy beliefs was found to be significantly associated with not having undergone an HIV test (AOR: 2.4; 95 percent CI: 1.1-5.7); however, endorsement was not associated with engaging in unprotected anal intercourse.

"Endorsing beliefs in HIV conspiracies reflects a mistrust in government institutions and systems which could be an impediment to seeking HIV-related services, including HIV counseling and testing," the authors concluded.