An analysis of the role of media in shaping discourse on issues related to HIV prevention services for men who have sex with men (MSM) in Senegal

Published: July 21, 2010

An analysis of the role of media in shaping discourse on issues related to HIV prevention services for men who have sex with men (MSM) in Senegal

F.M. Dramé1, D. Diouf2, N. Diop2, N.M. Ndaw2, T. Poteat3, S. Baral3, C. Traore4, M. Dhaliwal4, A. Wirtz4, C. Beyer3

1Gaston Berger University, Geography, St Louis, Senegal, 2Enda Tiers Monde, Santé, Dakar, Senegal, 3John Hopkins University, Center of Public Health, Baltimore, United States, 4UNDP, New York, United States

Issues: Same-sex practices among men are criminalized and socially rejected in many countries in West Africa, including Senegal. Senegal has been a leader in the region in the provision of HIV and STI preventive and care services supporting men who have sex with men (MSM). However, increasing rates of stigma and violence in 2008 interfered with the provision and uptake of these programs. Traditionally, the Senegalese media have played a key role in shaping public understanding of this situation and echoing a certain discourse related to homosexuality in the context of HIV.

Description: A media content and lexical analysis was completed that focused on how issues affecting MSM were reported in domestic Senegalese newspapers, radio stations, and websites between February 2008 and April 2009. For the lexical analysis, the frequency of recurrence of words and expressions was assessed and combined with an analytical review of media sources and the multi-level impact of their discourse.

Lessons learned: The content disseminated by the press has significant potential to influence the political, historical and religious discourse on homosexuality, which in turn shapes public opinions. It is vital to assess the contribution of media awareness on issues related to vulnerable populations, especially in the context of HIV, to mitigate stigmatizing speech and violence targeting MSM as well as to promote positive discourse. Involving the media as major players can facilitate improving the environment, promoting tolerant discourse, and maintaining access to HIV care and prevention services for marginalized populations.

Next steps: Media interventions are crucial components of advocacy programs for MSM in difficult social, cultural, and political contexts like Senegal. Comprehensive HIV interventions for MSM should include interventions targeting both individual drivers of HIV risk and interventions to educate domestic media sources with the goal of decreasing stigma targeting these men.

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