The project objective is to obtain reliable and valid information on HIV and Syphilis prevalence, risk behaviour, and cultural factors among men having sex with men (MSM), using a non-invasive outreach testing method (oral fluid) in countries of Southern and Eastern Europe. The project also aims to create a network of institutions working to implement new tools for STI surveillance, in collaboration with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in support of comprehensive, integrated HIV/STI prevention strategies.
The project is consistent with many E.U. Declarations (Vilnius, Dublin and Bremen) addresses the need of public health actions on HIV prevention among MSM in line with Work Plan 2007. The strategic relevance of the project lies in the possibility of exchanging and disseminating innovative experiences in the field of disease surveillance, developing sustainable monitoring systems, and linking with for a future targeted prevention campaign among MSM.
The project combines quantitative and qualitative methods. HIV and Syphilis oral fluid test results linked to behavioural data are an integrated epidemiological tool for quantifying baseline and cross-sectional data. The project is based on three actions: 1) multi -centre serological and behavioural survey among MSM in gay settings, 2) training on lab methods for oral fluid testing on HIV and syphilis to disseminate standardised procedures, 3) qualitative research to obtain in-depth understanding of risky sexual behaviour, determinants of and barriers to Voluntary Counselling Testing (VCT) access. The use of effective and valid research methods for gathering epidemiological information based on outreach strategies is of crucial importance for the implementation of evidence-based preventive actions. The project is directly linked to practical use of research results because it brings relevant data on serological status and behavioural patterns. It also maximizes the validity and effectiveness of preventive actions and their evaluation in South and Eastern European Countries.
The main outcomes are: estimation of HIV and syphilis prevalence using a non-invasive outreach method among MSM; information on socio-behavioural factors associated with risk behaviour, access to VCT, and treatment seeking behaviours; training and dissemination of lab technicians on new lab methods for HIV and syphilis tests on oral fluid; recommendations for policy makers and health-care professionals; networking with the ECDC to implement new tools for STI surveillance and with the DG SANCO, in support of comprehensive, integrated HIV/STI prevention strategies.