What can we learn from local cultures to empower MSM and their access to HIV/ AIDS prevention?

Published: July 21, 2010

What can we learn from local cultures to empower MSM and their access to HIV/ AIDS prevention?

P.J. Jansen

Hivos, DRAG, The Hague, Netherlands

Issues: The prevailing global debate on MSM and HIV/Aids prevention is dominated by models and strategies, which often see local cultural norms only as obstacles to overcome or try to avoid the cultural dimension at all. It is important to explore and adopt an approach towards the empowerment of MSM, which builds on the positive norms and values of local cultures.
Description: Hivos, the Humanist Institute for the Cooperation with Developing Countries, brought together African 25 researchers, civil society groups and activists in Nairobi to exchange ideas and experiences on the challenges and prospects posed by local cultures in empowering MSM, their access to HIV/Aids prevention and formulate recommendations on a way forward. In this presentation, we discuss some of the intriguing cases of the roots of homosexuality in African society. We will take clues from local processes which facilitated changes in traditions and perceptions which were previously considered to be taboos.
Lessons learned: The use of local terminologies and concepts to talk about MSM gives local people a different perspective and offers them the possibility to discuss an ostensibly stigma and taboo-laden issue. Using terminologies, historical cases and traditions to which local people can relate offers a perspective which help eliminate, to some extent, the tension and taboos which are often associated with MSM and homosexuality which are seen to be Western.
Next steps: Support initiatives in diverse cultures to generate knowledge on same-sex sexualities and the strategies to promote empowerment. We will systematise these lessons and make them easily accessible for HIV programming. A handbook on local meanings – terms, concepts and practices – of same sex sexualities across Africa will be developed. This handbook will provide insights also for identifying and mobilising sexual minority groups and demystifying same-sex sexualities in African societies.

Leave a Reply