Australian College of Applied Psychology, Sydney, Australia
Issues: Little is known of the lives of men who have sex with men (MSM) living in rural areas across the world and especially so in South East Asia. More culturally sensitive research is required to explore the lived experience of these men.
Description: This paper arises from a Postdoctoral Fellowship project conducted in rural Java. The research project explores the stories of men living in rural communities who acknowledge that they have sex with other men. It is a project about discovering the meaning that these men give to their experience of seeking and having sex with other men, mindful of where they live and the social conventions that exist there. It is also a project that contextualises the theme of this conference in suggesting that men who have sex with men are one of the vulnerable groups who have been systematically denied access to important social resources. In the case of these men, they have been denied visibility, recognition, social status and human dignity. But more importantly, they have also been excluded from AIDS education and prevention programs.
Lessons learned: If AIDS education programs are to be effective in rural areas, they must be presented in such a way that they reach out to rural men. The different issues that face rural MSM and the different social and geographical milieu in which these rural men live demand that such strategies in rural areas be culturally contextualized.
Next steps: It is increasingly clear that MSM, especially in rural men, have been largely overlooked in the formulation of HIV education and prevention strategies, so much so that they are being termed the ´missing piece´ in the AIDS jigsaw. The paper provides some ‘evidence’ on which to design prevention programmes so as to reach them.