XVIII International AIDS Conference


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Challenges and opportunities for behaviour change communication amongst young men (15 - 24 years) who have sex with men in Jamaica

M. Gunter1,2

1Jamaica Red Cross, HIV, St Catherine, Jamaica, 2University of the West Indies, CARIMAC, Mona, Jamaica

Background: Homophobia and heterosexism in Jamaica has severely hampered the execution of critical HIV prevention initiatives, as it perpetuates and sustain an invisible or camouflaged gay community driven underground, away from the access of social service providers. There also exists a dearth of research and social programmes executed with young gay men who are believe to be at increasingly high risk for HIV infection. This study creates a body of knowledge which social and health scientists may use to inform the creation and execution of crucial evidence based interventions for gay men.
Methods: Subsequent to an extensive literature research and review, a detailed inquiry was executed among a field of 100 young men between the ages of 15 and 24 years old, who have sex with men in the Kingston Metropolitan area of Jamaica, through the use of survey questionnaires, in-depth interviews and a focus group discussion. Key programme professionals were also interviewed.
Results: The study found that the HIV prevalence rate among men who have sex with men was 15 times higher than the general population. Fifty percent (50%) of respondents had sex with 3-10 partner over the last 12 months, 75% of these partners were more that 5 years their senior and 57% of the encounters were unprotected. Forty (40%) of the respondent were having sex with women, 34% of which were unprotected. or weed. Forty eight percent (48%) of the respondent did not think they were at risk for HIV.
Conclusions: The prevailing environment of homophobia and heterosexism has to be addressed at the political, legal and community levels, as it impedes critical HIV prevention initiatives, particularly research and prevention programmes. If prevention amongst men who have sex with men is not given equal attention, HIV among the general population will continue to increase.

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