Implementation of an HIV prevention program for men who have sex with other men in culturally conservative settings in Mexico
Issues: In the region of “los Altos” in Jalisco, Mexico it is difficult, and sometimes dangerous, to implement HIV prevention programs for MSM, due to the conservatism in social and religious norms that is part of every day life in the communities. This conservatism is promoted by some influential socio-political organizations. This situation has generated a violent homophobic culture, which causes the MSM population to become invisible and lack representation in the legislative system. This makes the implementation of an HIV prevention program in this population and in this setting very complex.
Description: The HIV prevention work that Enlaces de la Diversidad has developed with MSM is based on an empowerment and behavior change strategy about HIV, based on the building of social networks. The pilot project took place in Teocaltiche where a workshop was offered to a group. When the workshop finished we noticed, that along with the information, this people had developed strong bonds within the group, which helped them face the fear of homophobia, thus becoming more visible in their communities. Furthermore they have reduced their HIV risk practices, such as looking for partners for anonymous sex in bars and nightclubs, where they were under the influence of alcohol or drugs making them more likely to practice unprotected sex.
Lessons learned: The change in attitude at the community level towards homosexuality is slow and incremental, but thanks to the fact that the MSM that attended the workshops are feeling more empowered, they are promoting their sexual rights and are recruiting other MSM to be part of the project.
Next steps: As the project grows we hope to develop a network of groups that will have the capacity to lobby politicians so the government will assign programs and resources to develop HIV prevention activities targeting MSM.
-Abstract available at link below-