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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

What is the potential for bisexual men in China to act as a bridge of HIV transmission to the female population? Behavioural evidence from a systematic review and meta-analysis

Eric PF Chow1, David P Wilson1 and Lei Zhang12*

Author Affiliations

1 The Kirby Institute for infection and immunity in society, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

2 CFI Building, Corner of West and Boundary Streets, Darlinghurst, Sydney NSW 2010, Australia

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2011, 11:242  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-11-242

Published: 15 September 2011



HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men (MSM) in China has rapidly increased in recent years. It is suggested that MSM could be a potential bridge of HIV transmission to the general female population. We investigated the bisexual behaviour of MSM in China through systematic review and meta-analysis.


We conducted a systematic review and meta-analyses on published peer-reviewed Chinese and English literature during 2001-2010 according to the PRISMA guidelines. Marital status and sexual behavioural indicators of MSM were presented graphically using forest plots. The pooled effect rates with 95% confidence intervals were also calculated. Meta-regression analyses were performed to examine the factors associated with high heterogeneities across the studies.


Forty-three eligible articles (11 in English and 32 in Chinese) were identified. Our results showed that 17.0% (95% CI: 15.1-19.1%) of MSM in China are currently married to a woman and 26.3% (95% CI: 23.6-29.1%) of MSM had female sexual partners in the last six months. The pooled estimates for condom use rate between MSM and female sex partners was 41.4% (95% CI: 35.5-47.5%) at the last sex act; and 25.6% (95% CI: 23.0-28.4%) in the last six months. The consistent condom use rates with regular, non-commercial, casual and commercial female sex partners in the last six months were 23.3% (95% CI: 11.25-42.1%), 39.0% (95% CI: 28.8-50.3%) and 55.8% (95% CI: 41.4-69.4%), respectively.


A substantial proportion of Chinese MSM is currently married or had sexual relations with a female in the past six months. In addition, low condom usage was common between married MSM and their wives, hence posing a higher risk of transmitting HIV. Harm-reduction programs targeting married MSM and their female partners are necessary to curb the further spread of HIV infection to the general female population.

Men who have sex with men (MSM); meta-analysis; bisexual behaviour; condom use