MSM program – Asian Bathhouse Event
Issues: A safer sex message fatigue is a common phenomenon among MSM (Men having sex with men). For Asian MSM, there are other underlying factors such as low self-esteem, having conflicting feelings with either their racial or sexual identity; language barrier, and internalized homophobia and racism, that could also lead to unsafe sex.
In 2006, the Asian Bathhouse Event was initiated by the Asian Community AIDS Services (ACAS) as a new outreach strategy to encourage Asian MSM to be more actively engaged in safer sex practices and negotiation.
Description: The event, organized in a bathhouse, is a series of interactive and fun HIV/AIDS/STIs information sharing and sexual health workshops conducted by peer educator volunteers. Asian men are recruited and trained as volunteers to promote safer sex to bathhouse patrons at the event. The monthly event attracts 30-40 participants each time. Workshops, conducted in English with the help of interpreter volunteers, cover topics ranging from AIDS/STIs 101, HIV educational games, to erotic massage. The event includes HIV/STIs testing on site.
Lessons learned: A key to the success of the event is collaboration between HIV testing clinic, bathhouse owners, and ACAS volunteers. Most participants gained better understanding of HIV/STIs and realized the importance of regular HIV/STI testing. It gives educators an opportunity to deal with prevention factors including the lack of skills in negotiating safer sex and relationship. Many patrons enjoyed the Asian Bathhouse event and the bathhouse owners were willing to support the event.
The event also helped to promote a positive image and visibility of Asian MSM in bathhouses.
Next steps: The event as an outreach strategy can be applied to other MSM groups. AIDS service organizations plan to implement the bathhouse night event outreach model with other MSM groups. We plan to train bathhouse volunteers together with the M2Men Network members.
-Full abstract available at link below-