Background. The predominant mode of transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in Europe is male-to-male transmission. Men who have sex with men (MSM) are deferred from donating blood in many countries, but nevertheless do donate blood. Based on data from 34 countries, we estimated the proportion of MSM screened for HIV in the context of a blood donation and identified individual factors associated with this HIV screening in order to propose possible public health interventions.
Materials and methods. In 2010, the first European MSM Internet Survey (EMIS) collected self-reported data on HIV testing from >180,000 MSM in 38 European countries. Using logistic regression, demographic and behavioural factors associated with screening for HIV in blood establishments were identified. Stratified by European sub-region, we analysed the proportion of MSM screening in blood establishments by time elapsed since last negative HIV test.
Results. Donor eligibility criteria for MSM vary across Europe with most countries using permanent deferral. The Western region had the lowest (2%) proportion of MSM screened in blood establishments and the Northeastern region had the highest (14%). Being <25 years old, not disclosing sexual attraction to men, never having had anal intercourse with a man, having a female partner, living in a rural area, and certain European sub-regions or countries of residence increased the likelihood of being screened in blood establishments.
Discussion. In spite of deferral policies, MSM are screened for HIV in the context of blood donations. Gay-friendly testing services are rare in rural areas, and young men might be reluctant to disclose their sexual orientation. Recent developments, such as home sampling, might offer new testing possibilities for those not reached by established services yet wishing to know their HIV status. Donor selection procedures should be improved. Both interventions might help to further reduce the risk of transfusion-transmitted infections.
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