At the 10thInternational Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific a new study called Secret lives, other voices was launched. It explores sexuality, gender identity and HIV transmission risk in Fiji, and represents the first research of its kind to be conducted since 1998 among men who have sex with men and transgender people in the country.
The launch was attended by Fiji’s President Ratu Epeli Nailitikau.
With more than 200 respondents, the research project engaged staff members and volunteers from the AIDS Task Force of Fiji’s Amithi Project and the AIDS Council of New South Wales.
Conceived with the aim to inform the HIV response and the development of community-based activities, the research was conducted by members of the community. Research staff included men who have sex with men and transgender people, from a variety of social and ethic background, who were involved in each stage of the process including planning, data collection, analysis and reporting.
The report found that men who have sex with men are at high risk of HIV in Fiji. Only 21.6% of respondents consistently used condoms during anal sex with a male or transgender partner in the previous six months. More than one in five reported never using them.
Although there are high levels of knowledge about HIV, with over 66% of respondents answering questions correctly about transmission, the knowledge is not translating to behaviour.
The study also explored transactional sex and found that two thirds of the respondents reported giving or receiving money, gifts or favours in return for sex, making this a common experience.
Of the respondents only 10% had taken an HIV test in the preceding 12 months and knew the results. Barriers to testing included confidentiality and privacy issues as well as respondents reporting judgmental attitudes by clinic staff.
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