Migrant men and HIV care engagement in Johannesburg, South Africa

By Maria Francesca Nardell  Caroline Govathson  Sithabile Mngadi  Nkosinathi Ngcobo  Daniel Letswalo  Mark Lurie  Professor Jacqui Miot  Dr. Lawrence Long  Dr Sophie Pascoe  |  | 


Background South Africa (SA) has one of the highest rates of migration on the continent, largely comprised of men seeking labor opportunities in urban centers. Migrant men are at risk for challenges engaging in HIV care. However, rates of HIV and patterns of healthcare engagement among migrant men in urban Johannesburg are poorly understood.
Methods We analyzed data from 150 adult men (≥18 years) recruited in 10/2020–11/2020 at one of five sites in Johannesburg, Gauteng Province, SA where migrants typically gather for work, shelter, transit, or leisure: a factory, building materials store, homeless shelter, taxi rank, and public park. Participants were surveyed to assess migration factors (e.g., birth location, residency status), self-reported HIV status, and use and knowledge of HIV and general health services. Proportions were calculated with descriptive statistics. Associations between migration factors and health outcomes were examined with Fisher exact tests and logistic regression models. Internal migrants, who travel within the country, were defined as South African men born outside Gauteng Province. International migrants were defined as men born outside SA.
Results Two fifths (60/150, 40%) of participants were internal migrants and one fifth (33/150, 22%) were international migrants. More internal migrants reported living with HIV than non migrants (20% vs 6%, p=0.042), though in a multi-variate analysis controlling for age, being an internal migrant was not a significant predictor of self-reported HIV positive status. Over 90% all participants had undergone an HIV test in their lifetime. Less than 20% of all participants had heard of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), with only 12% international migrants having familiarity with PrEP. Over twice as many individuals without permanent residency or citizenship reported “never visiting a health facility,” as compared to citizens/permanent residents (28.6% vs. 10.6%, p=0.073).
Conclusions Our study revealed a high proportion of migrants within our community-based sample of men and demonstrated a need for HIV and other healthcare services that efectively reach migrants in Johannesburg. Future research is warranted to further disaggregate this heterogenous population by diferent dimensions of mobility and to understand how to design HIV programs in ways that will address migrants’ challenges.

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BMC Public Health