AIDS research and human retroviruses 2017 05 25() doi 10.1089/AID.2016.0326
Little is known about HIV prevalence and risk among men who have sex with men in much of the Middle East, including Lebanon. Recent national level surveillance has suggested an increase in HIV prevalence concentrated among men in Lebanon. We undertook a biobehavioral study to provide direct evidence for the spread of HIV.
. MSM were recruited by respondent driven sampling, interviewed, and offered HIV testing anonymously at sites located in Beirut, Lebanon from October 2014 through February 2015. The interview questionnaire was designed to obtain information on participants’ sociodemographic situation, sexual behaviors, alcohol and drug use, health, HIV testing and care, experiences of stigma and discrimination. Individuals not reporting an HIV diagnosis were offered optional, anonymous HIV testing.
Among the 292 MSM recruited, we identified 36 cases of HIV (12.3%). A quarter of the MSM were born in Syrian and recently arrived in Lebanon. Condom use was uncommon; 65% reported unprotected sex with other men. Group sex encounters were reported by 22% of participants. Among the 32 individual already aware of their infection, 32 were in treatment and receiving antiretroviral therapy.
HIV prevalence was substantially increased over past estimates. Efforts to control future increases will have to focus on reducing specific risk behaviors and experienced stigma and abuse, especially among Syrian refugees.