The first study into the lives of gay and bisexual African men living with HIV in London describes the challenges they face in dealing with the complex and sometimes contradictory realities of life.

The report, entitled I count myself as being in a different world: African gay and bisexual men living with HIV in London, has just been released by the Centre of Sexual Health and HIV at Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

It highlights that the additional stigma of being gay or bisexual and HIV positive is difficult for African men.

However, life in London offers some benefits to men in this situation, including access to healthcare and more liberal sexual attitudes in the capital.

The report shows that the dual stigma of being gay or bisexual and having HIV causes a dilemma when African men consider disclosing their condition.

Author Professor Lesley Doyal said: “Our study shows that being HIV and gay or bisexual has created very complex social lives for African men, with many developing and having to manage different groups of friends who will either know some, all or nothing about their situation.

“Those who are open about being gay or bisexual and HIV tend to only go where this is accepted, sometimes losing contact with their own communities.”

The report highlights that African gay or bisexual men with HIV face additional difficulties to other gay/bisexual men with HIV, because of the expectations surrounding their cultural identity.

This has created a new set of practical and emotional needs, which sometimes cannot be met, particularly for those with little money or insecure immigration status.

Co-author Dr Jane Anderson added: “The overall view of the men we spoke to was that their experience of healthcare was favourable, with many valuing hospital staff as ‘the biggest support’ they have.

“However, there is a need to establish specific support for this group as the study participants identified a real lack of organised groups or networks for African gay or bisexual men with HIV.”

Researchers from City University London and Homerton are appealing for African men who have sex with men to take part in a major new national study.

The project, Men and Sexual Health (MESH), will investigate whether sexual health services in Britain meet the needs of ethnic minority men who have sex with other men (MSM) including men of African origin. The questionnaire can be found online at www.meshproject.org.uk.

This report is third in a series of projects describing the experiences of African people living with HIV in London.

It is available to download from http://www.homerton.nhs.uk/education/11924649825796.html.