XVIII International AIDS Conference


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Virtual reality: using the internet/technology to develop LGBT relevant messages and circumvent terrestrial restrictions on LGBT interaction in Jamaica

J.S.M. Spencer

PINK Entertainment Report, Portmore, Jamaica

Jamaica´s LGBT community is primarily an underground movement, operating in the shadows of the wider society. As a consequence, agencies involved in developing targeted HIV/AIDS awareness programmes have had to face challenges relating to:
  1. Access to community members
  2. Venue selection i.e. choosing venues for programmes that are safe and user friendly
  3. Using tools and aids that are community specific and relevant to the audience members
The development of social and new media such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, as well as technological developments such as the Blackberry Messaging Service are resulting in changes in the way the Jamaican LGBT community communicates internally. These changes do present a mixed bag of opportunities and challenges especially as it regards; the development of Public Education campaigns and messages that are relevant and LGBT oriented whilst maintaining the privacy settings of community members.
The impact of social and new media on the internal dynamics of the Jamaican LGBT community can clearly be seen via the changes in the methods used to advertise parties and issue invitations to social gatherings. Post the Liberalization of Jamaica´s telecommunication and internet market in 2000, marketing strategies begun to incorporate text messages. While text messaging is still used, these have been largely supplanted by Facebook group marketing and twitter posts. The Blackberry smart-phone through its portability and turnkey applications has also greatly aided in the changes. The impact is that whilst the LGBT community still remains underground, there is an emerging structure,organization and coherence. These are exploitable resources from which more direct messages on HIV/AIDS can be developed that specifically target the Jamaican LGBT community.
Funding of Public Education programmes should seek to mimic the use of the tech-applications. Notably, there will be a need to work closely with telecommunications´ Universal Access programmes to expand internet accessibility amongst the most vulnerable.

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