Spectrum Health Net: reaching the invisible with holistic sexual health education
Issues: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) communities are especially affected by HIV in Guyana. Homophobia, reinforced by the criminalization of consensual sex between men, exacerbates the vulnerability of marginalized gay, bisexual and other same-sex practising men who are forced to conceal their sexual behaviour and their sexual risk therefore becomes invisible to most HIV prevention programmes.
Description: Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), a local, GLBT human rights organization working with these communities in Guyana, designed the Spectrum Health Net project to cater for these sensitive issues which affect GLBT communities by employing Information Communication Technology (ICT) to provide web-based information on holistic sexual health education, especially HIV health promotion. SASOD utilised existing relationships with GLBT communities and the Guyana Rainbow Association (Guybow), a front-line outreach group to sexual minorities, to hold focus groups to guide the design of content and style of Information Education Communication (IEC) materials for the website and brochure.
Lessons learned: The impact of a web-based prevention programme is limited by access to the internet. Feedback from focus-group discussions indicate that IEC brochures are especially welcomed by persons in underserved communities who faced these limitations. Because homophobia drives GLBT communities underground, in-person prevention programmes are limited in reach and impact on behaviour change among GLBT communities is diminished as opportunities to reinforce education on safer sexual practices are lost.
Next steps: A follow-up project involving the development of a manual to cover all human sexualities will be designed to equip sensitized AIDS service providers to conduct education that covers all consensual, sexual practices and increase impact through in-person programming. Among vulnerable populations, whose risk behaviours are driven underground by stigma and criminalization, in-person programming, the best-known form of HIV prevention, must be accompanied by stigma mitigation, law reform and other similar structural interventions to yield maximum impact.
-Abstract available at link below-