Programming strategically for men who have sex with men in volatile homophobic environments: a Jamaican case study
Jamaica Red Cross, HIV, St Catherine, Jamaica
Issues: Homosexual activity is view by many Jamaicans as deviant and antisocial behaviour and is punishable under the law to a maximum of 10 years imprisonment at hard labour. Secular music prescribes harsh, inhumane extrajudicial punishment for gay men. This enviornment results in the exclusion and marginalization of gay men, who are driven underground, away from access to appropriate health programmes. Traditional health programmes are presented for heterosexual audiences and exclude information and skills gay men need to prevent the transmission of HIV infection. An innovative Peer Education programme was created to strategically access young MSMs and provide them with appropriate information and skills relevant to their behaviours.
Description: Snowballing and Social Network strategy was used to identify, recruit and enroll young MSMs to be trained as Peer Educators. Candidates participated in an intensive 3 day residential training which was guided by a manual and used participatory and experiential approaches to explore key social theories, models and strategies; results of local and international research on issues affecting gay men; HIV Infection and Prevention; Sexually Transmitted Infections; Interpersonal Communication; Social Network Strategy; Risk Communication; Sexuality and Homosexuality; and Stigma and Discrimination among others. Certified peer educators were equipped with a Risk Communication Intervention tool which they use to execute 1 - 2 hour interventions with 10 of their peers, individually.
Lessons learned: Gay men are in dire need of information and skills relevant, appropriate and responsive to their needs. The self esteem, self efficacy, dignity and capacity of participants is significantly enhanced by sensitive training. The combination of Snowballing, Social Networking Strategy and Peer Education is effective in accessing and empowering populations which are socially excluded and underserved by traditional health programmes.
Next steps: The intervention will be evaluated and shared with other agencies interested in executing interventions with gay youth.
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