Health Seeking Behaviour in Relation to Sexually Transmitted Diseases among Men who have Sex with Men in Yangon, Myanmar

Abstract Background: Yangon Region, home for nearly 20% of Myanmar’s population of men who have sex with men (MSM), has a high HIV/AIDS prevalence and new HIV/AIDS infection rate, likely to be because of the sex-driven epidemic. Thus, treatment seeking behaviour for sexually transmitted diseases (STD), including HIV/AIDS is in critical need to be explored among MSM community in Yangon. The rise of information and communication technologies (ICT) has changed the landscape of STD treatment seeking behaviour, especially in MSM population. Objectives: To find out the level of awareness for STDs and STD treatment seeking behaviour among MSM in Yangon, assess their barriers and challenges affecting STD treatment-seeking and explore the role of ICT in their health-seeking behaviour. Method: A cross-sectional quantitative study was conducted to MSM aged 18 and above residing in one of 33 townships in Yangon administrative area. A questionnaire was developed based on the validated questionnaire from the previous similar study and behavioural surveillance surveys. The collected data were then analysed using descriptive and inferential analysis. Result: More than 75% of the study participants received STD knowledge from health personals and social network. Awareness score is the lowest in ‘Tha-nge’ MSM category. Mean treatment seeking interval was 12.4 days among 59 respondents having an STD history within 6 months, and all took treatment from healthcare workers for their last STD episode. Mobile phone possession was 94% and respondents used at least one ICT to seek early and appropriate STD treatment. Conclusion: Awareness raising activities should be targeted on all MSM, especially to the “Tha-nge”. Healthcare personals should be trained for providing proper health education and appropriate STD care and treatment, including unique behaviour and needs of the MSM community. Investment for STD health education should be shifted from the traditional method of advertising in printed and broadcasting media to digital innovation which is more cost-effective and ensures more engagement with targeted MSM community. A qualitative research should be conducted to better understand the barriers and challenges of MSM in Yangon in relation to seeking STD knowledge and treatment, which have been partly explored in this study.