Gay male immigrants may be at higher risk of HIV exposure in Europe

August 31, 2017 by Rosalind D
Gay male immigrants may be at higher risk of HIV exposure in Europe
Risk of HIV exposure within Europe. Credit: Yale University

Gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) often are motivated to embark on new lives in supportive countries to escape oppression and experience freedoms unavailable in their home countries. However, a recent study addressing the MSM migrant community shows that structural stigma (e.g., laws and policies promoting the unequal treatment of oppressed populations) may put this intersectional population at a higher risk of HIV exposure.   

These analyses led by the Yale School of Public Health offer the first evidence to show toward and immigrants is associated with a lack of HIV-prevention knowledge, service coverage and precautionary behaviors among MSM migrants. The findings are published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.

"MSM migrants are potentially affected by stigmas directed toward sexual minorities and toward immigrants," said John E. Pachankis, Ph.D., associate professor at the Yale School of Public Health, who collaborated with European colleagues on the research project. "Yet, previous research has only examined these stigma influences in isolation."

Based on data from 23,000 participants who had moved to or within38 European countries, researchers found that discriminatory laws, institutional policies and biased national attitudes present risk factors underlying the global HIV epidemic among MSM. For example, MSM living in more structurally stigmatizing locales experience critical gaps in HIV-prevention, service coverage, knowledge and behavior.

Immigration poses its own set of challenges related to fitting into a culture and accessing appropriate health care services – MSM migrants in unwelcoming societies are particularly vulnerable to structural disadvantages given that they may not possess the political, social or economic status necessary to access health-promoting resources. 

"We looked at the LGBT stigma in a person's previous country and in their current country and found that both are relevant to MSM migrants' HIV risk. We found that LGBT stigma in one's current country had the strongest effects on HIV-risk outcomes, although having previously lived in a country with a supportive climate seemed to protect against some of those risks upon migrating," Pachankis said.

He noted that the support, or lack therefore, that MSM receive in their home countries might continue to influence their risk even if they move to a different country. Pachankis also notes that MSM living at the intersection of high anti-LGBT stigma and anti-immigrant stigma are at particular risk of outcomes like not disclosing their sexual orientation during testing. 

The authors hope that this study will bring attention to LGBT immigrants as a vulnerable population, and that health officials need to engage laws and policies to protect the health of this community. They advise modifying the structural contexts surrounding MSM migrants through legislation (e.g., enacting laws that recognize the equality of sexual minorities), so that countries may ensure more equitable access to health-promotion interventions among MSM migrants and ultimately curb the HIV epidemic among this population. 

The study was based on data from European MSM Internet Survey.

Explore further: The health effects of homophobia

More information: John E. Pachankis et al. Anti-LGBT and Anti-Immigrant Structural Stigma, JAIDS Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (2017). DOI: 10.1097/QAI.0000000000001519

Related Stories

The health effects of homophobia

June 8, 2015
Gay and bisexual men living in European countries with strong attitudes and policies against homosexuality are far less likely to use HIV-prevention services, test for HIV, and discuss their sexuality with health providers, ...

Addressing stigma, coping behaviors and mechanisms in persons living with HIV could lead to better health outcomes

April 21, 2017
Investigators from the University of Alabama at Birmingham have developed a new conceptual framework highlighting how unique dimensions of individual-level HIV-related stigma might affect the health of those living with HIV. ...

Stigma due to age, sexual orientation, HIV status contributes to poor mental, physical health

August 4, 2017
When it comes to HIV prevention and treatment, there is a growing population that is being overlooked—older adults—and implicit ageism is partially responsible for this neglect, according to a presentation at the 125th ...

The federal government will stop collecting data on LGBT seniors—bad news for their health

April 4, 2017
You've likely read the front-page news about accessible gender-neutral bathrooms. This has gained attention, not only as a human rights issue, but also a political one.

Recommended for you

Scientists find where HIV 'hides' to evade detection by the immune system

October 19, 2017
In a decades-long game of hide and seek, scientists from Sydney's Westmead Institute for Medical Research have confirmed for the very first time the specific immune memory T-cells where infectious HIV 'hides' in the human ...

National roll-out of PrEP HIV prevention drug would be cost-effective

October 18, 2017
Providing pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication to men who have sex with men who are at high risk of HIV infection (equivalent to less than 5% of men who have sex with men at any point in time) in England would be cost-effective, ...

Regulatory T cells harbor HIV/SIV virus during antiviral drug treatment

October 17, 2017
Scientists at Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University have identified an additional part of the HIV reservoir, immune cells that survive and harbor the virus despite long-term treatment with antiviral drugs.

New research opens the door to 'functional cure' for HIV

October 17, 2017
In findings that open the door to a completely different approach to curing HIV infections, scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have for the first time shown that a novel compound effectively ...

Researchers create molecule that could 'kick and kill' HIV

October 5, 2017
Current anti-AIDS drugs are highly effective at making HIV undetectable and allowing people with the virus to live longer, healthier lives. The treatments, a class of medications called antiretroviral therapy, also greatly ...

A sixth of new HIV patients in Europe 50 or older: study

September 27, 2017
People aged 50 and older comprise a growing percentage of HIV patients in Europe, accounting for one in six new cases in 2015, researchers said Wednesday.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.