Journal of Urban Health

, Volume 86, Issue 6, pp 887-901

First online:

Estimating Populations of Men Who Have Sex with Men in the Southern United States

  • Spencer LiebAffiliated withFlorida Department of Health, Bureau of HIV/AIDS Email author 
  • , Daniel R. ThompsonAffiliated withFlorida Department of Health, Bureau of HIV/AIDS
  • , Shyam MisraAffiliated withDistrict of Columbia Department of Health
  • , Gary J. GatesAffiliated withThe Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law
  • , Wayne A. DuffusAffiliated withUniversity of South Carolina School of MedicineSouth Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control
  • , Stephen J. FallonAffiliated withSkills4, Inc.
  • , Thomas M. LibertiAffiliated withFlorida Department of Health, Bureau of HIV/AIDS
  • , Evelyn M. FoustAffiliated withNorth Carolina Department of Health and Human Services
  • , Robert M. MalowAffiliated withFlorida International University
    • , For the Southern AIDS Coalition MSM Project Team

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Population estimates of men who have sex with men (MSM) by state and race/ethnicity are lacking, hampering effective HIV epidemic monitoring and targeting of outreach and prevention efforts. We created three models to estimate the proportion and number of adult males who are MSM in 17 southern states. Model A used state-specific census data stratified by rural/suburban/urban area and national estimates of the percentage MSM in corresponding areas. Model B used a national estimate of the percentage MSM and state-specific household census data. Model C partitioned the statewide estimates by race/ethnicity. Statewide Models A and B estimates of the percentages MSM were strongly correlated (r = 0.74; r-squared = 0.55; p < 0.001) and had similar means (5.82% and 5.88%, respectively) and medians (5.5% and 5.2%, respectively). The estimated percentage MSM in the South was 6.0% (range 3.6–13.2%; median, 5.4%). The combined estimated number of MSM was 2.4 million, including 1,656,500 (69%) whites, 339,400 (14%) blacks, 368,800 (15%) Hispanics, 34,600 (1.4%) Asian/Pacific Islanders, 7,700 (0.3%) American Indians/Alaska Natives, and 11,000 (0.5%) others. The estimates showed considerable variability in state-specific racial/ethnic percentages MSM. MSM population estimates enable better assessment of community vulnerability, HIV/AIDS surveillance, and allocation of resources. Data availability and computational ease of our models suggest other states could similarly estimate their MSM populations.


Men who have sex with men HIV/AIDS Epidemic modeling HIV/AIDS surveillance Epidemic monitoring Epidemic monitoring Census