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



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


Background 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 including socio-economic disadvantages, stigma, and criminalization that increase their vulnerability to HIV acquisition and transmission and undermine progress towards ending AIDS. This systematic review explores progress towards increases in HIV testing, improving engagement in the HIV treatment cascade, and HIV incidence reductions among MSM in Africa.

Methods We searched Embase, Medline, Global Health, Scopus, and Web of Science from January 1980-March 2022 for cross-sectional and longitudinal studies reporting HIV testing, knowledge of status, care, antiretroviral therapy (ART) use, viral suppression, and/or HIV incidence among MSM in Africa. We pooled surveys using Bayesian generalized linear mixed-effects models, used meta-regression to assess time trends, and compared HIV incidence estimates among MSM with those of all men.

Findings Of 8,992 articles identified, we included 148 unique studies published from 2005-2022. HIV testing increased over time in Central/Western and Eastern Africa and in 2020, we estimate that 88% (95% credible interval (CrI) 57-97%) of MSM had tested in the past 12 months, but 66% (19-94%) of MSM living with HIV knew their HIV status, although this is probably underestimated given non-disclosure. Current ART use increased over time in Central/Western (ORyear=1.4, 95%CrI 1.1-2.0, N=8) and Eastern/Southern Africa (ORyear=1.4, 1.0-1.8, N=17) and in 2020 we estimate that 75% (18-98%) of MSM living with HIV in Africa were currently on ART. Nevertheless, we did not find strong evidence viral suppression increased, and in 2020 we estimate that only 62% (12-95%) of MSM living with HIV were virally suppressed. HIV incidence among MSM did not decrease over time (IRRyear=1.0, 0.7-1.3, N=38) and remained high in 2020 (5.4 per 100 person-years, 0.9-33.9) and substantially higher (27-150 times higher) than among all men.

Interpretation No decreases in HIV incidence have been observed 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.