Understanding HIV risk and healthcare engagement of at‐risk individuals by HIV status is vital to informing HIV programmes in settings where the HIV epidemic is rapidly expanding like the Philippines. This study examined differences in HIV risk and healthcare engagement factors among Filipinx transgender women and cisgender men who have sex with men (trans‐WSM and cis‐MSM respectively) who self‐reported being HIV negative, HIV positive or HIV unknown.
Between 2018 and 2019, we conducted Project #ParaSaAtin, an online cross‐sectional survey that examined the structural, social and behavioural factors impacting HIV services among Filipinx trans‐WSM and cis‐MSM (n = 318). We performed multinomial regression procedures to determine factors associated with HIV status (with HIV‐negative referent). Co‐variates included participant demographics, experiences of social marginalization, HIV risk, healthcare engagement and alcohol and substance problems.
Self‐reported HIV status of the sample was as follows: 38% HIV negative, 34% HIV positive and 28% HIV unknown. Relative to HIV‐negative respondents, HIV‐positive respondents were more likely to be older (25‐ to 29‐year‐old adjusted risk ratio [aRRR]=5.08, 95% Confidence Interval [95% CI] = 1.88 to 13.72; 30‐ to 34‐year‐old aRRR = 4.11, 95% CI = 1.34 to 12.58; and 35 + years old aRRR = 8.13, 95% CI = 2.40 to 27.54, vs. 18 to 25 years old respectively), to live in Manila (aRRR = 5.89, 95% CI = 2.20 to 15.72), exhibit hazardous drinking (aRRR = 2.87, 95% CI = 1.37 to 6.00) and problematic drug use (aRRR = 2.90, 95% CI = 1.21 to 7.13). HIV‐positive respondents were less likely to identify as straight (aRRR = 0.13, 95% CI = 0.02 to 0.72), and were more likely to avoid HIV services due to lack of anti‐lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) discrimination policies (aRRR = 0.37, 95% CI = 0.14 to 0.90). Relative to HIV‐negative respondents, HIV‐unknown respondents were less educated (some college aRRR = 0.10, 95% CI = 0.02 to 0.37, beyond college aRRR = 0.31, 95% CI = 0.09 to 0.99, vs. high school or below respectively), had lower HIV knowledge (aRRR = 0.30, 95% CI = 0.20 to 0.71), and were less communicative about safer sex (ARR = 0.29, 95% CI = 0.09 to 0.92). Moreover, HIV‐unknown respondents were also more likely to have avoided HIV services due to cost (aRRR = 4.46, 95% CI = 1.73 to 11.52).
This study highlights differences in HIV risks and healthcare engagement by HIV status. These findings show different barriers exist per HIV status group, and underscore the need to address Filipinx trans‐WSM and cis‐MSM’s poor engagement in HIV services in the Philippines.