Behaviors associated with HIV transmission risk among rural sexual and gender minority and majority residents
Wiley D Jenkins, Gregory Phillips 2nd, Christofer A Rodriguez, Megan White, Stacy Agosto, Georgia S Luckey
Multiple rural states and communities experience elevated rates of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), often associated with diminished healthcare access and increased drug use. Though a substantial proportion of rural populations are sexual and gender minorities (SGM), little is known of this group regarding substance use, healthcare utilization, and HIV transmission behaviors. During May-July 2021, we surveyed 398 individuals across 22 rural Illinois counties. Participants included cisgender heterosexual males (CHm) and females (CHf) (n = 110); cisgender non-heterosexual males and females (C-MSM and C-WSW; n = 264); and transgender individuals (TG; n = 24). C-MSM participants were more likely to report daily-to-weekly alcohol and illicit drug use prescription medication misuse (versus CHf; aOR = 5.64 [2.37-13.41], 4.42 [1.56-12.53], and 29.13 [3.80-223.20], respectively), and C-MSM participants more frequently reported traveling to meet with romantic/sex partners. Further, more C-MSM and TG than C-WSW reported healthcare avoidance and denial due to their orientation/identity (p < 0.001 and p = 0.011, respectively); 47.6% of C-MSM and 58.3% of TG had not informed their provider about their orientation/identity; and only 8.6% of C-MSM reported ever receiving a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) recommendation. More work is needed to explore the substance use and sexual behaviors of rural SGM, as well as their healthcare interactions, to better target health and PrEP engagement campaigns.