B.C. health researchers examine HIV rates among visible-minority men who have sex with men

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      While the good news is that overall HIV infections rates have been in decline in British Columbia, rates among men who have sex with men (MSM) are not.

      What's more, the rate is in fact increasing among MSM who are visible minorities. Compounding this concern is the fact that there has been little to no research conducted on HIV issues within visible minority MSM populations in B.C.

      To address this lack of information, B.C. health researchers conducted a study to find out what impact the Seek and Treat for Optional Prevention of HIV/AIDS (STOP HIV/AIDS) has had, with a particular focus on HIV and B.C. MSM visible minorities.

      STOP HIV/AIDS is a provincial program that was designed to raise awareness about HIV prevention, testing, care, and treatment. It was launched in 2009 in Vancouver and Prince George before it was expanded province-wide in 2013.

      Researchers from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, UBC, the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, and the B.C. Ministry of Health were involved in the study.

      The study drew upon data from 1,963 male clients with an average age of 38 years. Within this total number, 24 percent (472 men) were visible minorities.

      The researchers took a look at MSM with new HIV diagnoses between 2003 and 2015.

      Researchers found that these men were more likely to have a positive diagnosis on their first test before the STOP HIV/AIDS program had been launched. The expansion of routing testing has also increased regular HIV testing than before the STOP HIV/AIDS program was launched.

      Researchers also found that visible minority MSM were more likely to be diagnosed HIV–positive on their first test and at an advanced state of infection than non-visible minorities.

      Younger MSM, or men who were younger than 35 years old, had a higher likelihood of being diagnosed in an acute stage of infection.

      The researchers recommended stronger relationships with visible minority MSM to encourage testing and early diagnosis and care.

      The study was presented at the 2017 Canadian Association for HIV Research conference, which was held in April in Montreal, Quebec, and was also posted on the BCCDC's Smart Sex Resource website in June.

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