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Open Access Study protocol

Sexual health of ethnic minority MSM in Britain (MESH project): design and methods

Jonathan Elford1*, Eamonn McKeown1, Rita Doerner1, Simon Nelson2, Nicola Low3 and Jane Anderson4

Author affiliations

1 School of Community and Health Sciences, City University London, 20 Bartholomew Close, London EC1A 7QN, UK

2 Terrence Higgins Trust, 8-10 West Street, Bristol BS2 0BH, UK

3 Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Bern, Finkenhubelweg 11, 3012 Bern, Switzerland

4 Centre for the Study of Sexual Health and HIV, Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Homerton Row, London, E9 6SR, UK

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2010, 10:419  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-419

Published: 14 July 2010

Abstract

Background

Men who have sex with men (MSM) remain the group most at risk of acquiring HIV infection in Britain. HIV prevalence appears to vary widely between MSM from different ethnic minority groups in this country for reasons that are not fully understood. The aim of the MESH project was to examine in detail the sexual health of ethnic minority MSM living in Britain.

Methods/Design

The main objectives of the MESH project were to explore among ethnic minority MSM living in Britain: (i) sexual risk behaviour and HIV prevalence; (ii) their experience of stigma and discrimination; (iii) disclosure of sexuality; (iv) use of, and satisfaction with sexual health services; (v) the extent to which sexual health services (for treatment and prevention) are aware of the needs of ethnic minority MSM.

The research was conducted between 2006 and 2008 in four national samples: (i) ethnic minority MSM living in Britain; (ii) a comparison group of white British MSM living in Britain; (iii) NHS sexual health clinic staff in 15 British towns and cities with significant ethnic minority communities and; (iv) sexual health promotion/HIV prevention service providers. We also recruited men from two "key migrant" groups living in Britain: MSM born in Central or Eastern Europe and MSM born in Central or South America.

Internet-based quantitative and qualitative research methods were used. Ethnic minority MSM were recruited through advertisements on websites, in community venues, via informal networks and in sexual health clinics. White and "key migrant" MSM were recruited mostly through Gaydar, one of the most popular dating sites used by gay men in Britain. MSM who agreed to take part completed a questionnaire online. Ethnic minority MSM who completed the online questionnaire were asked if they would be willing to take part in an online qualitative interview using email.

Service providers were identified through the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) and the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) CHAPS partnerships. Staff who agreed to take part were asked to complete a questionnaire online.

The online survey was completed by 1241 ethnic minority MSM, 416 men born in South and Central America or Central and Eastern Europe, and 13,717 white British MSM; 67 ethnic minority MSM took part in the online qualitative interview. In addition 364 people working in sexual health clinics and 124 health promotion workers from around Britain completed an online questionnaire.

Discussion

The findings from this study will improve our understanding of the sexual health and needs of ethnic minority MSM in Britain.