BACKGROUND: Commercial sex workers within the population of men who have sex with men (MSM) in China, known as 'money boys' (MBs), are perceived to be at higher risk for HIV and other sexually-transmissible infections (STIs).
METHODS: We conducted a systematic review and meta-analyses from peer-reviewed literature accessed in two English (PubMed and Embase) and three Chinese databases (CNKI, CQVIP, Wanfang data). A data synthesis exercise was carried out to determine the extent and patterns of behaviours and HIV/STI epidemics. Pooled estimates, with 95% confidence intervals, for each study variable were calculated.
RESULTS: Thirty-two eligible articles (9 in English and 23 in Chinese) were identified. Our analysis indicated that Chinese MBs are generally young, currently employed, at low literacy levels and highly mobile. The prevalence of HIV, syphilis and co-infection among MBs were estimated to be 6.0% (4.2-8.5%), 12.4% (9.9-15.3%) and 2.2% (1.1-4.1%) over the period of 2004-2011. Level of condom use among MBs is generally higher than the broader MSM population (69.2% at last act, and 48.5% consistently over the past 6 months). One-third of the Chinese MBs identified themselves as bisexual and 8.7% (5.6-13.5%) are currently married to a female. Further, 40.9% (34.5-47.7%) of MBs participated in group sex in the past 12 months and 14.8% (10.6-20.3%) concurrently use illicit drugs.
CONCLUSIONS: HIV/STI epidemics have affected Chinese MBs but the evidence suggests that the extent of infections is not greater than among other MSM in China.
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