Overcoming stigma and biases against men who have sex with men to stimulate positive behavior change in a challenging environment: a Jamaican study
L. Hue1, G. Hue Beckford2, M. Gunter3
1Jamaica Red Cross, St. Catherine, Jamaica, 2Emory University, Science & Society, Atlanta, United States, 3Jamaica Red Cross, Spanish Town, Jamaica
Issues: In Jamaica, the HIV prevalence for men who have sex with men (MSM) is almost 19 times greater than the general population (30% vs 1.3%). This greater vulnerability is further compounded by many cultural and socio-political challenges specific but not exclusive to Jamaica. These include rampant homophobia, criminality of homosexual acts, institutionalization of discrimination against MSM, and the stigma attached to being HIV positive or a sexual minority.Our target group requires special attention addressing the unique needs and risks. These individuals are difficult to locate in the environment described above. MSM wish to protect themselves once they are aware of the risks but in the current environment this is rare.We sought to address the dearth of resources and access to information available to this stigmatized group.
Description: An intervention was designed to reach MSM in a non-threatening and behaviourally relevant manner. The approach covers rapport, risk perception, risk reduction, basic information about sexually transmitted infections, ethical considerations, communication, social network strategy, sexuality, stigma & discrimination.The main objective is to prevent further HIV infection among the MSM population through specific outreach peer support and VCT. Peer educators are provided with an interactive, easy-to-learn strategy for engaging their peers along with a risk assessment tool which has proven highly valuable.
Lessons learned: Data provided by participants in the program indicate that 90% have increased their volition and ability to negotiate safer sex. Anecdotal evidence suggests that they feel better about themselves and their lifestyle changes necessitated by the AIDS health crisis.
Next steps: We are currently coordinating a clearinghouse for mechanisms and sources of support and networking amongst peer educators to ensure continuity of program beyond the formal training.
We intend to expand the reach of the program and contact many more MSM and other vulnerable populations
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