HIV and STI Testing Barriers and Preferences Among Alberta GBTQ Men – A Representative Strategy via Community-Based Research

Student Researcher:
Michael Taylor

Supervisor / Principle Investigator:
Brook Biggin

Additional Authors:
Derek Fehr

MD Class of 2020


Background: The province of Alberta is developing a new STBBI (Sexually Transmitted and Bloodborne Infections) Strategy, led by Alberta Health Services (AHS) with the participation of a broad range of community stakeholders. In order to more effectively address the specific health determinants, needs, and outcomes of gay, bisexual, trans, and queer (GBTQ) men, AHS has engaged the Edmonton Men’s Health Collective (EMHC) to provide expertise, and to conduct community consultation.

Methodology: An online survey of GBTQ men (n=368) in Alberta, Canada was conducted in February of 2017 using social media as the primary means of promotion. Frequencies were calculated using SAS programming. Survey topics included: sexual health knowledge and education, condom usage, substance use, injection drug use, partner notification, HIV and STI testing and treatment, post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), and HIV care. Responses from females (cisgender and transgender, n=5) were excluded.

Results: 45.4% (n=167) indicated ‘testing hours’ as the most important factor relative to STI and HIV testing access, with ‘inconvenient testing hours’ being selected most as a barrier to accessing both STI testing (55.4%, n=204) and HIV testing (52.4%, n=193); ‘weekday evenings’ (79.3%, n=292) and ‘weekend afternoons’ (74.2%, n=273) were most preferred to access testing. 83.4% (n=307) expressed likelihood to access rapid HIV testing if made available; 79.3% (n=292%) also selected standard HIV and STI testing. If made available, STI clinics (90.2%, n=332) and LGBTQ specialized clinics (85.3%, n=314) were most frequently chosen to access testing. Among those who have a family doctor (n=224), 81.7% (n=183) indicated that they had come out to their provider.

Conclusion: Alberta’s current HIV and STI testing framework is not responsive to the preferences and primary barriers experienced by GBTQ men; continued consultation and collaboration with the community must persist in order to address gaps in care and improve access to HIV and STI testing.