Background: This article describes the testing behavior for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) antibody among an urban population of men who have sex with men (MSM) and the reasons given for not being tested for HIV.
Methods: A random digit dialing telephone survey of men living in selected neighborhoods of Seattle, Washington, was conducted from June through August 1992.
Results: Of 603 MSM interviewed, 82% had ever been tested for HIV; 19% of tested men were seropositive. MSM who were older, nonwhite, with lower income, or not currently sexually active were less likely to have been tested. Among nontesters, 57% believed their risk of infection was too low to justify testing; 52% said they had not tested due to fear of learning the result. Testers and nontesters had similar rates of unprotected sexual behavior.
Conclusions: Most MSM who had not been tested for HIV believed they were not at risk of infection and/or were fearful of learning the result. To increase the proportion of MSM who test, public health agencies may need to emphasize that unexpected infection does occur and that new therapies are available for those testing positive. Innovative programs may be necessary to reach those who have not yet decided to be tested.