BMC Public Health 2023; 23(8). doi: 10.1186/s12889-022-14891-2
Authors: Ulrich Marcus, Kai Jonas, Rigmor Berg, Maria Amelia Veras, Carlos F. Caceres, Jordi Casabona, Susanne B. Schink & Axel J. Schmidt
Partner notification (PN) after a sexually transmitted infection (STI) diagnosis is being promoted as a means to interrupt transmission chains. We investigated whether Internalised Homonegativity (IH) is associated with PN among men having sex with men (MSM).
PN, defined as notifying at least one partner after diagnosis of syphilis and gonorrhoea, was queried in two internet-based self-completion surveys conducted between Oct 2017 and May 2018 in 68 countries in Europe, Latin America, Canada, and the Philippines. IH is defined by a man’s level of agreement or disagreement with negative social beliefs about male homosexuality. Covariates included in a multivariate regression model with a random intercept at country level were age, HIV diagnosis, partnership status, sexual self-efficacy, HIV serostatus communication during last sex with a non-steady partner, place where this partner was met, and PN-related socio-historical background of the country of residence. We grouped countries in three areas: North- and Central-Western European countries plus Canada, former socialist countries, and Latin-American/Mediterranean countries plus the Philippines. In each of the three areas individuals were assigned to 4 subgroups based on IH quartiles and PN rates were determined for each subgroup.
PN rates were calculated for 49 countries (excluding countries with less than 10 diagnoses). Mean proportions of MSM notifying their partners were 68.1% and 72.9% after syphilis and gonorrhoea diagnoses, respectively. PN rates were lower in Latin American countries and the Philippines compared to European countries. Within Europe, a North–South divide with lower PN rates in Mediterranean countries was observed. In each of the three regions we mostly observed a stepwise increase of PN rates with decreasing IH.
Regression analysis showed lower IH scores associated with higher PN rates. Higher perceived self-efficacy, living in a partnership, and HIV status communication were positively associated with PN. Men who had met their last partner in a gay social venue were more likely to have notified their partners of a syphilis diagnosis compared to men who had met this partner online. Men with diagnosed HIV were less likely to report PN.
We could demonstrate that IH was associated with PN among MSM across all countries included in our analysis. Reducing cultural homophobia and ensuring inclusive policies may contribute to STI prevention and control.