XVIII International AIDS Conference


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One-to-one risk reduction conversations: a mechanism to improve risk perception among Jamaica's men who have sex with men population

Presented by Sannia Sutherland (Jamaica).

S. Sutherland, L. Byfield, N. Cooper

Ministry of Health, National HIV/STI Programme, Kingston, Jamaica

Issues: Although the HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Jamaica stands at 31.8%, the risk perception within the community is poor due to the homophobic environment. As a direct result of the inability of organizations working in the HIV arena to target this population openly and use prevailing media to convey the heightened risk of anal sex in public fora, many MSM do not see their risk behaviour as a greater cause for concern than other types of penetrative sex.
Description: The National HIV/STI programme to increase the risk perception of MSM and impact on risk behaviour has launched a programme of one-to-one counseling sessions as part of the MSM empowerment programme. Through the programme MSM are placed in groups and over a 6 month period each individual is required to attend a one-day workshop once a month where they receive VCT, HIV/STI Education, Condom Skills, and Risk Assessment. Persons are also linked into social programmes that provide remedial education, and skills building. Each MSM is provided with one-to-one counseling opportunities with the workshop facilitators to discuss their individual specific risk behaviours and their life goals.
Lessons learned: Due to homophopbia, Jamaica's MSM have limited opportunities to discuss their individual sexual practices, and this skews their risk perception because they deny and ignore the risk behaviours for fear of repercussions. It is important to ensure that the group to be counseled are introduced to the strategy beforehand as they are extremely cautious and suspicious of new facilitators.
Next steps: There is a need to increase the number of opportunities to conduct the one-to-one risk conversations and it is proposed that the number of sessions be moved from a minimum of one to a maximum of three to gauge the improvement in risk perception.

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