The study showed that gay men from black and minority ethnic (BME) populations were approximately 17% less likely to initiate antiretroviral therapy than white gay men. However, after starting treatment there were no differences by ethnicity in treatment outcomes.
“The provision through the NHS [National Health Service] of publicly funded HIV care with universal access has resulted in equitable utilisation and outcomes of HIV care across different ethnic MSM [men who have sex with men] groups,” comment the investigators. “Nevertheless we have shown that there are disparities in the uptake of cART [combination antiretroviral therapy] and the reasons for this warrant further study.”
Gay men remain one of the groups most affected by HIV in the UK. Prevalence of the infection differs significantly according to ethnicity and is higher among BME gay men compared to white gay men.
US research showed that differences in health insurance status meant that MSM from minority racial populations were less likely to access healthcare compared to white MSM.
In the UK, however, the NHS provides universal and equitable access to healthcare. Despite this, there is some evidence suggesting that BME patients are more likely to report dissatisfaction with their care and longer waiting times for appointments.
Investigators from the UK Collaborative HIV Cohort (UK CHIC) therefore analysed differences in retention in HIV care, uptake of antiretroviral therapy and HIV treatment outcomes between MSM according to ethnicity.
The study involved 16406 gay male patients who received care between 1996 and 2008. The analysis of HIV treatment utilisation was restricted to individuals who were seen after 2000. Examination of treatment outcomes was restricted to the subgroups of individuals who received care after 2007.