The Lancet HIV

Trends in HIV testing, the treatment cascade, and HIV incidence among men who have sex with men in Africa: a systematic review and meta-analysis



James Stannah, Nirali Soni, Jin Keng Stephen Lam, Katia Giguère, Kate M Mitchell, Nadine Kronfli, Joseph Larmarange, Raoul Moh, Marcellin Nouaman, Gérard Menan Kouamé, Prof Marie-Claude Boily, Mathieu Maheu-Giroux



Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) are disproportionately affected by HIV. In Africa, MSM face structural barriers to HIV prevention and treatment that increase their vulnerability to HIV acquisition and transmission, and undermine the HIV response. In this systematic review, we aimed to explore progress towards increases in HIV testing, improving engagement in the HIV treatment cascade, and HIV incidence reductions among MSM in Africa.


We searched Embase, MEDLINE, Global Health, Scopus, and Web of Science for cross-sectional and longitudinal studies reporting HIV testing, knowledge of status, care, antiretroviral therapy (ART) use, viral suppression, and HIV incidence among MSM in Africa published between Jan 1, 1980, and March 3, 2023. We pooled surveys using Bayesian generalised linear mixed-effects models, used meta-regression to assess time trends, and compared HIV incidence estimates among MSM with those of all men.


Of 9278 articles identified, we included 152 unique studies published in 2005–23. In 2020, we estimate that 73% (95% credible interval [CrI] 62–87) of MSM had ever tested for HIV. HIV testing in the past 12 months increased over time in central, western, eastern, and southern Africa (odds ratio per year [ORyear] 123, 95% CrI 101–151, n=46) and in 2020 an estimated 82% (70–91) had tested in the past 12 months, but only 51% (30–72) of MSM living with HIV knew their HIV status. Current ART use increased over time in central and western (ORyear 141, 108–193, n=9) and eastern and southern Africa (ORyear 137, 104–184, n=17). We estimated that, in 2020, 73% (47–88) of all MSM living with HIV in Africa were currently on ART. Nevertheless, we did not find strong evidence to suggest that viral suppression increased, with only 69% (38–89) of MSM living with HIV estimated to be virally suppressed in 2020. We found insufficient evidence of a decrease in HIV incidence over time (incidence ratio per year 096, 95% CrI 063–150, n=39), and HIV incidence remained high in 2020 (69 per 100 person-years, 95% CrI 31–276) and substantially higher (27–199 times higher) than among all men.


HIV incidence remains high, and might not be decreasing among MSM in Africa over time, despite some increases in HIV testing and ART use. Achieving the UNAIDS 95-95-95 targets for diagnosis, treatment, and viral suppression equitably for all requires renewed focus on this key population. Combination interventions for MSM are urgently required to reduce disparities in HIV incidence and tackle the social, structural, and behavioural factors that make MSM vulnerable to HIV acquisition.


US National Institutes of Health, UK Medical Research Council, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and Fonds de Recherche du Québec–Santé.