Acting within an increasingly confined space: A qualitative study of sexual behaviours and healthcare needs among men who have sex with men in a provincial Tanzanian city

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objective: To explore risk perceptions, sexual practices and healthcare needs among men who have sex with men in the provincial city of Tanga in northern Tanzania. Previous research suggests that HIV/STIs are increasing problems for this population. Yet, few studies have been conducted outside the urban area of Dar es Salaam, which has limited our knowledge about the HIV/STI risk factors and healthcare needs among men who have sex with men who live outside major metropolitan areas. Method: During three months in 2013, 10 in-depth interviews with men who have sex with men were conducted in Tanga. Data were interpreted through qualitative content analysis. Results: The theme that emerged was labelled “Acting within an increasingly confined space”. The theme reflects the interference of stigma in men’s lives, and in the face of potential discrimination, men perceived their sexual and healthcare choices as limited. This created obstacles for forming romantic and sexual relationships, insisting on consistent condom use with sexual partners, maintaining open and conducive relationships with family, and accessing healthcare services when required. Conclusions: Sexual stigma is a concern as it contributes to HIV/STI risk-related behaviours among men who have sex with men. Priority should be given to programmes that support same-sex practicing men in their efforts to make informed choices regarding their sexual health. Creating safe cyber networks provides an opportunity to reach this population with targeted sexual health education messages. Such programmes might be even more urgent in smaller towns and rural areas where gay specific initiatives are more limited than in urban areas.


External organisations
  • Academic Medical Center of University of Amsterdam (AMC)
  • University of Minnesota
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology


  • sexual behavior, healthcare need, Tanzania, Qualitative studies
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0183265
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Aug 1
Publication categoryResearch