Although HIV prevalence has remained low in Laos thus far, there is reason to be concerned that Lao male-to-female (MtF) transgender persons (kathoy) and their partners may facilitate the spread of HIV. Little is known about how to most effectively reach kathoy with HIV prevention programming. This paper evaluates an intervention with Lao kathoy with the objective of increasing safe sex with regular and casual partners.
Quantitative surveys were administered in November 2004 (n = 288) and June 2006 (n = 415) using time location sampling at venues where kathoy were known to congregate. Respondents were aged 15-35 and from three urban centers in Laos. UNIANOVA tests were used to compare baseline and follow-up survey data and to evaluate the impact of PSI’s kathoy-specific interventions on items that changed significantly over time.
Exposure to the intervention was associated with higher levels of condom use at last anal sex with casual partners and greater use of water-based lubricant. Exposure was also linked to improved perceptions of product availability for condoms and water-based lubricant. Knowledge about the importance of consistent condom use improved over time as well as the need to use condoms with regular partners. Some HIV knowledge decreased over time and the intention to use condoms with casual partners when water-based lubricant is available also declined.
Study results demonstrate the feasibility of reaching kathoy with an integrated social marketing approach; combining product promotion, peer education, and other types of interpersonal communication. The approach was successful at increasing condom use with casual partners and water-based lubricant use, but the importance of using condoms along with water-based lubricant must be emphasized and modified strategies are required for improving condom use with boyfriends. Future messages should emphasize consistent condom use with all types of partners as well as improve knowledge and correct misconceptions about HIV and AIDS, STIs, condom use, and lubricant use. It is also important that authorities create an enabling environment to support such interventions and help foster behavior change.
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