We did a meta-analysis to assess factors associated with disparities in HIV infection in black men who have sex with men (MSM) in Canada, the UK, and the USA.
We searched Embase, Medline, Google Scholar, and online conference proceedings from Jan 1, 1981, to Dec 31, 2011, for racial comparative studies with quantitative outcomes associated with HIV risk or HIV infection. Key words and Medical Subject Headings (US National Library of Medicine) relevant to race were cross-referenced with citations pertinent to homosexuality in Canada, the UK, and the USA. Data were aggregated across studies for every outcome of interest to estimate overall effect sizes, which were converted into summary ORs for 106,148 black MSM relative to 581,577 other MSM.
We analysed seven studies from Canada, 13 from the UK, and 174 from the USA. In every country, black MSM were as likely to engage similarly in serodiscordant unprotected sex as other MSM. Black MSM in Canada and the USA were less likely than other MSM to have a history of substance use (odds ratio, OR, 0·53, 95% CI 0·38-0·75, for Canada and 0·67, 0·50-0·92, for the USA). Black MSM in the UK (1·86, 1·58-2·18) and the USA (3·00, 2·06-4·40) were more likely to be HIV positive than were other MSM, but HIV-positive black MSM in each country were less likely (22% in the UK and 60% in the USA) to initiate combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) than other HIV-positive MSM. US HIV-positive black MSM were also less likely to have health insurance, have a high CD4 count, adhere to cART, or be virally suppressed than were other US HIV-positive MSM. Notably, despite a two-fold greater odds of having any structural barrier that increases HIV risk (eg, unemployment, low income, previous incarceration, or less education) compared with other US MSM, US black MSM were more likely to report any preventive behaviour against HIV infection (1·39, 1·23-1·57). For outcomes associated with HIV infection, disparities were greatest for US black MSM versus other MSM for structural barriers, sex partner demographics (eg, age, race), and HIV care outcomes, whereas disparities were least for sexual risk outcomes.
Similar racial disparities in HIV and sexually transmitted infections and cART initiation are seen in MSM in the UK and the USA. Elimination of disparities in HIV infection in black MSM cannot be accomplished without addressing structural barriers or differences in HIV clinical care access and outcomes.