Lack of Awareness of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection: Problems and Solutions With Self-reported HIV Serostatus of Men Who Have Sex With Men
Background. Lack of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection awareness may be a driver of racial disparities in HIV infection among men who have sex with men (MSM). Lack of awareness is typically measured by comparing HIV test result to self-reported HIV status. This measure may be subject to reporting bias and alternatives are needed.
Methods. The InvolveMENt study examined HIV disparities between black and white MSM from Atlanta. Among HIV-positive participants who did not report knowing they were positive, we examined other measures of awareness: HIV viral load (VL) <1000 copies/mL (low VL), antiretroviral (ARV) drugs in blood, and previous HIV case surveillance report.
Results. Using self-report only, 32% (62 of 192) of black and 16% (7 of 45) of white MSM were not aware of their HIV infection (P = .03). Using self-report and low VL, 25% (48 of 192) black and 16% (7 of 45) white MSM lacked awareness (P = .18). Using self-report and ARVs, 26% (50 of 192) black and 16% (7 of 45) white MSM lacked awareness (P = .14). Using self-report and surveillance report, 15% (28 of 192) black and 13% (6 of 45) white MSM lacked awareness (P = .83).
Conclusions. Self-report only may overestimate true lack of awareness of HIV status for black MSM. If, as our data suggest, black MSM are not less likely to be aware of their HIV infection than are white MSM, then this factor is not a substantial driver of HIV disparity. Future HIV research that depends on accurate measurement of HIV status awareness should consider including additional laboratory and case surveillance data.