This paper examines changes in barriers to HIV testing amongst gay men. We compared data collected in 2000 and 2010 to assess changes in HIV testing behaviours, in community-level perceptions of barriers to HIV testing, and in the relative contributions of barrier measures.
Cross-sectional surveys were conducted within the commercial gay scene in Glasgow with good response rates (78% and 62%) using a form of time and location sampling.
Major changes in HIV testing behaviours were observed between 2000 and 2010 (30.6% increase in testing within previous year). At the community level, the perceived benefits of testing [t (1284) = –8.46; P < 0.001] and the norm for HIV testing [t(1236) = –11.62; P < 0.001] increased; however, other perceived barriers did not change (fear of a positive result, clinic-related barriers and attitudes to sex with HIV-positive men). Multinomial logistic regression showed that fear of a positive test result remained a key barrier to HIV testing; however, a significant fear × year of survey interaction indicated that fear played a lesser role in differentiating those who had never been tested from those who had been tested in 2010 than it had in 2000.
These findings suggest the partial normalization of HIV testing. While some barriers have reduced, other key barriers remain important. Interventions should be designed and evaluated that attend to both the biomedical and the psychosocial aspects of HIV testing (e.g. the meaning of positive test results, the sexual exclusion of positive men, and HIV-related stigma).
- HIV testing
- gay men
- HIV normalization
- barriers to testing