The Burden of Living With HIV is Mostly Overestimated by HIV-Negative and Never-Tested Men Who Have Sex With Men

AIDS Behav. 2021 Nov;25(11):3804-3813. doi: 10.1007/s10461-021-03281-1. Epub 2021 May 4.


To assess whether HIV-negative men who have sex with men (MSM) have realistic views of the current implications of living with HIV, we compared data of 950 tested HIV-negative and 122 never-tested MSM on anticipated consequences of an HIV-infection to the actual experiences of 438 MSM living with HIV. Data were collected with a self-reported, web-based survey conducted between May-June 2019 in the Netherlands. Results indicated that, compared to HIV-positive MSM, HIV-negative MSM significantly overestimated 95% (37/39) of items assessing HIV-related burden. Never-tested participants overestimated 85% (33/39) of items. Overestimation in never-tested MSM was modified with increasing age and having HIV-positive friends/relatives. The high level of overestimation suggests the ongoing need to correct for misperceptions, as this could help reduce stigma towards those living with HIV and diminish fear of an HIV-diagnosis. The latter might be important to improve testing uptake in older never-tested MSM with outdated views on HIV.

Keywords: Burden; HIV; Male; Men who have sex with men; Quality of life; Social stigma.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • HIV Infections* / epidemiology
  • Homosexuality, Male
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities*
  • Social Stigma
  • Surveys and Questionnaires