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Heterosexual men likely to have unmet HIV treatment needs


Women with HIV and men with HIV who have sex with women (MSW) have substantially different experiences with treatment than men with HIV who have sex with men (MSM), according to findings presented at the HIV Glasgow 2020 Virtual Meeting. MSM had better overall health outcomes than the other two groups, the study found, suggesting that MSW and women have unmet needs that require providers’ attention.

Chinyere Okoli of ViiV Healthcare Global Medical Affairs in Brentford, England, and her associates administered a Web-based survey about HIV-related perceptions and behaviors to 2,389 adults with HIV in 25 countries. The respondents included 1,018 MSM, 479 MSW, and 696 women.

In high-income countries, MSM respondents had been diagnosed a median 9 years earlier, MSW respondents a median 4 years earlier, and women respondents a median 5 years earlier. In middle-income countries, diagnosis was a median 3 years ago for MSM respondents and a median 6 years for MSW and women respondents.

Rates of suboptimal adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) were lowest (15.5%) among MSM, compared with MSW (38.8%) and women (28%). Similarly, viral nonsuppression had occurred in only 10.9% of MSM, whereas it had occurred in 43.2% of MSW and 37.1% of women. A little more than one-third (36.5%) of MSM had suboptimal overall health, whereas 47.2% of MSW and 46.2% of women had suboptimal overall health (P < .05).

A similar percentage of MSM (38%) and women (38.2%) reported polypharmacy; both percentages were significantly lower than for MSW (45.1%; P = .020). Yet MSW were less likely than the other two groups to have comorbidities unrelated to HIV: 46.1%, compared with 64.6% of MSM and 56.7% of women (P < .001).

Although a higher proportion (63%) of MSW than MSM (44%) or women (55%) were receiving a multitablet ART regimen, MSW were least likely to consider the impact of side effects when they began ART and were most likely to experience side effects. Only 45% of MSW prioritized minimizing side effects when they began receiving ART, and more than half (52%) were experiencing side effects with their current regimen.

By contrast, a majority of MSM (60%) prioritized minimizing side effects at ART initiation, and only 35% currently had side effects. Women fell in the middle with 48% considering side effects when starting ART and 49% reporting current side effects.

The proportion of respondents who said ART side effects were affecting their lives was not significantly different: 69% of MSM, 73% of MSW, and 74% of women. However, 56% of MSW reported skipping at least one dose in the past month because of side effects, which was more than twice the percentage of MSM (24%; P < .001). One-third of women (33%) reported skipping at least one dose.

MSW were also least comfortable talking to their health care provider about ART side effects: 55% reported discomfort, compared with 34% of MSM and 43% of women. A high majority of MSW (87.9%) said they experienced barriers to talking to their providers about relevant health concerns. The proportion who reported barriers was lower for MSM (59%) and women (72.7%; P < .001).

The substantial differences between MSM and MSW, which were even greater than those between MSW and women, suggest this population has the greatest amount of unmet needs, the researchers concluded. “Acknowledging these differences when planning/administering care can help narrow disparities,” they wrote.

A version of this article originally appeared on

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