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Estimating the Size of the MSM Population in Metro Vancouver, Canada, Using Multiple Methods and Diverse Data Sources

Abstract

Men who have sex with men (MSM) are disproportionately affected by HIV globally, regionally in Canada, and locally in Vancouver. Lack of reliable population size estimates of MSM impedes effective implementation of health care services and limits our understanding of the HIV epidemic. We estimated the population size of MSM residing in Metro Vancouver drawing on four data sources: the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS), a cross-sectional bio-behavioural MSM survey, HIV testing services data from sexually transmitted infection (STI) clinics serving MSM, and online social networking site Facebook. Estimates were calculated using (1) direct estimates from the CCHS, (2) “Wisdom of the Crowds” (WOTC), and (3) the multiplier method using data from a bio-behavioural MSM survey, clinic-based HIV testing, and online social media network site Facebook. Data sources requiring greater public disclosure of sexual orientation resulted in our mid-range population estimates (Facebook 23,760, CCHS 30,605). The WOTC method produced the lowest estimate, 10,000. The multiplier method using STI clinic HIV testing data produced the largest estimate, 41,777. The median of all estimates was 27,183, representing 2.9% of the Metro Vancouver census male adult population, with an interquartile range of 1.1–4.5%. Using multiple data sources, our estimates of the MSM population in Metro Vancouver are similar to population prevalence estimates based on population data from other industrialized nations. These findings will support understanding of the HIV burden among MSM and corresponding public health and health services planning for this key population.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research [107544] and the National Institute for Drug Abuse at the National Institutes for Health [R01DA031055]. We thank the research participants for sharing their important data with the Momentum Health Study. We also thank our community-based partners on the Momentum Health Study Community Advisory Board for their input in this work, including representatives from the Health Initiative for Men, YouthCO HIV & Hep C Society of BC, and Positive Living Society of BC. DMM is supported by a Scholar Award from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research.

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Correspondence to Ashleigh J. Rich.

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Key Messages

• Men who have sex with men (MSM) are disproportionately affected by HIV globally, nationally in Canada, and locally in Vancouver, British Columbia.

• Lack of reliable population size estimates of MSM impedes effective implementation of health care services and limits our understanding of the HIV epidemic.

• Using diverse data sources and methods, our median estimate of the MSM population in Metro Vancouver was 27,183.

• The corresponding 2.9% proportion of MSM in the male census population of Metro Vancouver was similar to estimates from other jurisdictions.

• These findings will help support better public health planning and understanding of the HIV epidemic among MSM.

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Rich, A.J., Lachowsky, N.J., Sereda, P. et al. Estimating the Size of the MSM Population in Metro Vancouver, Canada, Using Multiple Methods and Diverse Data Sources. J Urban Health 95, 188–195 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11524-017-0176-8

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Keywords

  • MSM
  • Population size
  • HIV
  • Canada
  • Respondent-driven sampling