Using a mobile van to provide voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) to high-risk and closeted MSM
Issues: HIV among MSM in Lima remains a concentrated epidemic at 21%. Voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) remains the main strategy for preventing HIV transmission, yet it is not available to gay people due to geographic and cultural barriers.
Description: A mobile van provided free, anonymous VCT services at gay venues and local areas far from our clinic. Each visit was made at peak times of activity, mostly at night. We visited saunas and parks nearby night clubs. The team consisted of a physician, two counselors, a laboratory technician and a volunteer peer educator. Rapid HIV and syphilis testing was conducted and all the results were given at the mobile van within 20 minutes. During the first three months, we tested 225 MSM for HIV and 82 for syphilis. Of them, 44.8% had never been tested for HIV and 64.8% hadn’t received any kind of HIV prevention information in the last year. Additionally, 42.6% didn’t use a condom at their last sexual intercourse and 28.2% interchanged money for sex within the last 3 months. We reached a significant number of non-gay identified MSM (23.0%). Overall, 9.3% MSM tested positive for HIV and 12.2% tested positive for syphilis.
Lessons learned: By providing an accessible venue and accessible hours, we reached high-risk MSM who had never been tested and had no access to preventive HIV information. Additionally, we tested an important number of non-gay identified MSM, a population that is very reluctant to attend VCT services in Lima. Managing participants’ emotions was a key strategy when giving HIV positive results at the mobile unit.
Next steps: To transfer this model to local government units, assist them in the adoption of the strategy, and assess whether other vulnerable groups can benefit from it.
-Abstract available at link below-