Assessing knowledge, attitudes and practices of KwaZulNatal health professionals towards men who have sex with men (MSM) : exploring access to mainstream public healthcare services.
Background: Healthcare institutions tend to ignore the role healthcare workers (HCWs) play in shaping perceptions of and responses to service uptake. Lack of appropriate HCW skills and their perceived attitudes towards men who have sex with men (MSM) patients has been connected to “misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, and delayed treatment, leading to poor health prognosis and higher risk of transmitting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections to partners” (Smith, 2015). Research Aim: This study explores key factors at individual, group and societal levels which influence perceived HCWs attitudes towards MSM; and how this limits access to HIV prevention, treatment, and support and care services for the MSM population. A Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices (KAP) study is conducted to evaluate the KAPs of HCWs and the ways in which these may affect service provision to MSM patients. The study aims to provide evidence-informed solutions required to equip HCWs with necessary skills to provide HIV/AIDS and quality healthcare services that are sensitive to the needs of MSM. Methods: The study employs qualitative methods and data will be collected through face-to-face interviews. The social ecology model informs this study. Prospective participants include various health professionals, such as the head of the provincial health department, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and technicians or medical students from two public healthcare facilities in Durban – King Edward VIII hospital and Imbalenhle clinic, in Pietermaritzburg. Methods used were structured interviews in the form of focus group discussions and self-administered questionnaires. These were conducted with various categories of HCWs in both healthcare facilities. Conclusions: HCWs play a huge role in influencing responses to HIV and AIDS interventions among key population groups, including the perpetuation of stereotyping and stigma. There is a need for a multi-faceted intervention that addresses perceived HCW attitudes towards MSM. Lessons learned from other studies about barriers to HIV prevention and management may have application in other populations.