PLOS ONE, November 2023. Abstract
Background: HIV testing uptake remains very low among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Malaysia, a subgroup still bearing a disproportionate HIV burden. Therefore, we sought to identify and measure factors associated with never-testing for HIV among Malaysian MSM to further characterize this subgroup and inform future public health interventions addressing low testing rates in the country.
Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional online survey among Malaysian MSM (August to September 2021). Participants completed questionnaires, including socio-demographic characteristics, HIV/STI testing practices, drug- and sex-related behaviors, and knowledge and attitudes toward HIV prevention services. Out of 1,799 completed surveys, 870 were included in the analysis after eliminating duplicates and incomplete surveys. We used logistic regression to determine factors associated with never-testing for HIV.
Results: Overall, one-third of the study participants (33.8%) reported having never tested for HIV. Of those who reported to have tested for HIV (n = 576), half reported that they had tested for HIV in the past 6 months (50.3%). In multivariable logistic regression, MSM with HIV sero-concordant partner (aOR = 3.44, 95% CI = 1.56–7.60), without a prior diagnosis of a sexually transmitted infection (aOR = 2.83, 95% CI = 1.46–5.49), unaware of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP; aOR = 2.71, 95% CI = 1.74–4.21), unaware of someone taking PrEP (aOR = 1.64, 95% CI = 1.15–2.35), and unwilling to use PrEP (aOR = 2.48, 95% CI = 1.43–4.30) had higher odds of never been tested for HIV. In contrast, MSM who were older (aOR = 0.95, 95% CI = 0.93–0.97) and of the Malaya ethnic group (aOR = 0.59, 95% CI = 0.37–0.95) had lower odds of never testing for HIV.
Conclusions: Our findings shed light on the characteristics of HIV never-testers among MSM in Malaysia. The results indicate the need for innovative strategies to increase the uptake of HIV testing services among members of the MSM community.