Pressured HIV testing "in the name of love": a mixed methods analysis of pressured HIV testing among men who have sex with men in China

J Int AIDS Soc. 2018 Mar;21(3):e25098. doi: 10.1002/jia2.25098.


Introduction: HIV testing has rapidly expanded into diverse, decentralized settings. While increasing accessibility to HIV testing is beneficial, it may lead to unintended consequences such as being pressured to test. We examined the frequency, correlates and contexts of pressured HIV testing among Chinese men who have sex with men (MSM) using mixed methods.

Methods: We conducted an online survey of MSM (N = 1044) in May 2017. Pressured HIV testing was defined as being forced to test for HIV. We conducted logistic regression analysis to determine the associations between pressured HIV testing and socio-demographic and sexual behavioural factors. Follow-up interviews (n = 17) were conducted with men who reported pressured testing and we analysed qualitative data using a thematic analysis approach.

Results: Ninety-six men (9.2%) reported experiencing pressure to test for HIV. Regular male sex partners were the most common source of pressure (61%, 59/96), and the most common form of pressure was a threat to end a relationship with the one who was being pressured (39%, 37/96). We found a higher risk of pressured testing in men who had only used HIV self-testing compared to men who had never self-tested (AOR 2.39 (95%CI: 1.38 to 4.14)). However, this relationship was only significant among men with low education (AOR 5.88 (95% CI: 1.92 to 17.99)) and not among men with high education (AOR 1.62 (95% CI: 0.85 to 3.10)). After pressured testing, about half of men subsequently tested for HIV (55%, 53/96) without pressure - none reported being diagnosed with HIV. Consistent with this finding, qualitative data suggest that perceptions of pressure existed on a continuum and depended on the relationship status of the one who pressured them. Although being pressured to test was accompanied by negative feelings, men who were pressured into testing often changed their attitude towards HIV testing, testing behaviours, sexual behaviours and relationship with the one who pressured them to test.

Conclusion: Pressured HIV testing was reported among Chinese MSM, especially from men with low education levels and men who received HIV self-testing. However, in some circumstances, pressure to test helped MSM in several ways, challenging our understanding of the role of agency in the setting of HIV testing.

Keywords: HIV; China; coercion; men who have sex with men; mixed methods; testing.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • China
  • HIV Infections / diagnosis
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • HIV Infections / psychology
  • Homosexuality, Male* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Sexual Partners