Building capacity and supporting volunteer peer educators to target men who have sex with men for HIV prevention: Poro Sapot Project, save the children in Papua New Guinea
Issues: PNG is experiencing a growing generalized HIV epidemic with national HIV prevalence among the adult population currently estimated at 1.7%. The epidemic is fuelled by multiple sexual partnering, low condom use and limited STI and VCT services. Although sex between men is a feature of many traditional PNG societies, and is widespread, it is illegal and highly stigmatized outside of these practices. Men who identify as homosexual are at risk of discrimination and violence. This vulnerable population is often hidden and is difficult to reach with safer sex messages.
Description: Poro Sapot is a peer-mediated sexual health improvement and HIV prevention project that works with men who have sex with men. PSP aims to reduce negative impacts of STIs, HIV and AIDS amongst vulnerable men, promote their rights and safe-guard their well-being. PSP recruits, trains and supports teams of volunteer peer educators to increase safe sex knowledge and improve access to condoms and lubricant. This is complemented by strategies to: increase access to health services; improve skills and knowledge of target groups; and advocate with police and other gatekeepers to create enabling environments supportive of behaviour change.
Lessons learned: A comprehensive peer education training and support programme has been established and delivered to over 70 male volunteers. Illegality, stigma and discrimination are significant barriers to programme delivery as many men who have sex with men cannot identify themselves as such and remain hidden. Advocacy and sensitization workshops including police, staff of nightclubs, hotels and guesthouses, and health workers have helped to address these barriers.
Next steps: PSP must continue: to support and strengthen delivery of peer-mediated STI and HIV prevention messages; address stigma and discrimination experienced by men who have sex with men; advocate for greater public understanding of male sexual health, and increase advocacy efforts to address legal barriers.
-Abstract available at link below-