Stigmatizing attitudes against migrants as well as laws and policies that promote unequal treatment of LGBT people may raise the risk of HIV among migrant men who have sex with men (MSM). Specifically, such structural and social stigma toward sexual minorities and migrants is linked to poorer knowledge about HIV prevention, insufficient sexual services coverage and lower personal efforts to reduce the risk of acquiring the virus among migrant MSM.

Publishing their findings in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, researchers analyzed responses from 23,371 migrant MSM respondents in 38 European nations to the 2010 European MSM Internet Survey (EMIS). The investigators compared these responses with national laws and policies that promote unequal treatment of MSM in 181 nations across the world, as well as national attitudes against migrants in the 38 European countries. The investigators also looked at the respondents’ language fluency, time since migrating and various outcomes related to HIV prevention.

The study authors found that anti-LGBT laws and policies as well as anti-immigrant attitudes in the countries to which MSM immigrate, not to mention structural LGBT stigma in these individuals’ home nations, are all associated with a higher risk of HIV.

“We found that LGBT stigma in one’s current country had the strongest effects on HIV risk outcomes, although having previously lived in a country with a supportive climate seemed to protect against some of those risks upon migrating,” John E. Pachankis, PhD, an associate professor at the Yale School of Public Health who collaborated with European colleagues on the research project said in a press release.

Anti-LGBT and anti-immigrant sentiment may affect migrants’ risk of HIV by, for example, discouraging them from disclosing their sexual orientation during testing for the virus. MSM migrants may be more likely to experience other critical deficits in their receipt of HIV prevention services related to medical coverage and in their awareness about the virus and how to reduce their risk of acquiring it.

To read a press release about the study, click here.

To read the study abstract, click here.