Depression, substance abuse and stigma among men who have sex with men in coastal Kenya

AIDS. 2015 Dec;29 Suppl 3(0 3):S251-9. doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000000846.


Objectives: Mental health conditions can erode quality of life and interfere with health-related behaviours such as medication adherence. We aimed to determine the prevalence and correlates of depression and other psychosocial factors among self-identified men who have sex with men (MSM) in coastal Kenya.

Design: A cross-sectional survey.

Methods: Psychosocial and mental health characteristics were assessed in an audio computer-assisted self-interview (ACASI) survey among 112 MSM participating in two ongoing HIV-positive and HIV-negative cohorts in Mtwapa, Kenya.

Results: One-third of participants met criteria for major depressive disorder [16.1%, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 9.8-24.2] or other depressive disorder (15.2%, 95% CI 9.1-23.2). Alcohol abuse was reported by 45% of respondents (95% CI 35.2-54.3) and other substance abuse by 59.8% (95% CI 50.1-69.0). Sexual and HIV stigma were moderate, with median scores of 11 [interquartile range (IQR) 6-17, potential range 0-33] and 25 (IQR 23-29, potential range 11-44), respectively. There were significant bivariate correlations between alcohol abuse, other substance abuse, sexual stigma and childhood and recent abuse. In a multivariable linear regression model, sexual stigma (beta = 0.17, 95% CI 0.03-0.32) and marriage to a woman (beta = -2.41 95% CI -4.74 to -0.09) were each associated with depression score.

Conclusion: We found moderate to high levels of depression and substance abuse, and moderate levels of sexual stigma. These variables were highly inter-correlated and associated with an experience of trauma or abuse. Comprehensive mental health services are needed in this population to address these issues.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • Homosexuality, Male / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Kenya / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Self Report
  • Social Stigma*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology