Since men who engage in sex with other men have a greater prevalence of HIV compared with those in the general public, Dr. Henna Budhwani, assistant professor in the department of health care organization and policy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has assessed characteristics associated with HIV, such as use of condoms and number of sexual partners, comparing young (ages 18 to 24) with older (ages 25 and up) men who have sex with men in Jamaica, which is home to over 10 percent of the HIV-positive population in the Caribbean. Co-investigators include assistant professor Dr. Kristine Ria Hearld, in UAB’s School of Health Professions, and UAB graduate student Ms. Suzanne Peterson Newton, as well as Mr. Geoffrey Barrow, of the University of West Indies, and Ms. Kandasi Walton-Levermore, of Jamaica AIDS Support for Life.
According to the analyzed service data included in the study, the majority of the 160 self-selected participants who have sex with men ages 18 to 62 identified as homosexual (compared with bisexual), 93.6 percent reported agreeing to the use of a condom when requested, more than half had completed a tertiary level of education (such as post-high school training), over a third indicated having experienced sexual abuse, and 59.1 percent of respondents were employed. Prevalence of HIV among the group was 17.8 percent, considerably lower than the 32 percent reported in national studies, suggesting an underestimation inherent in the self-selected sample.
“Statistically significant relationships were found between age group and tertiary education, employment status, condom use with a regular partner, and sexual abuse. Younger men who have sex with men were more likely to have been sexually abused and were more likely to always wear a condom with their regular partner,” noted Dr. Budhwani. “A limitation of this study was the extent of missing data, restricting generalizability. However, by acknowledging the heterogeneity of the Jamaican men who have sex with men population, and subsequently evaluating behaviors across age groups, nuances emerge which highlight behavioral diversity.”
The researchers concluded that these findings could be instrumental in helping public health practitioners develop targeted interventions, as well as in supporting policy changes designed to reduce stigma and discrimination across the island.
“A Comparison of Younger and Older Men Who Have Sex with Men Using Data from Jamaica AIDS Support for Life: Characteristics Associated with HIV Status” was published online in July in the International Journal of STD & AIDS.