Work hard, play hard: researching MSM at call centres in the Philippines
A. Smith1, J. Macasil2, R. Howard3
1International Labour Organization, Sub-regional Office for East Asia, Bangkok, Thailand, 2International Labour Organization, SRO/Manila, Manila, Philippines, 3International Labour Organization, ILO Sub-regional Office for East Asia, Bangkok, Thailand
Issues: Despite a significant community-based response in Asia and the Pacific, MSM prevalence continues to increase at an alarming rate -between 5 and 30% across the region.
MSM in the Philippines account for 69% of new infections and may constitute the first wave of a concentrated epidemic. Call centres, which employ a high percentage of MSM, offer unique opportunities for targeted scale-up of the MSM response.
Description: In 2009 the International Labour Organization (ILO) and Ateneo de Manila University conducted a comprehensive risk assessment survey among 650 call centre workers in Manila. This showed that 48% of male call centre workers surveyed self-identified as MSM and 70% reported four or more partners over the previous 12 months. Only 34% percent reported condom use during last sex and 15% reported consistent condom use during the previous year.
Self-reported risk factors were influenced by a “work hard, play hard” atmosphere characterized by high work stress, frequent alcohol use before sex, drug use and readily available partners through work-site internet chatting.
Respondents noted that the workplace would be a suitable location for offering tailored services to MSM including stress management, confidential counselling on sexual wellbeing and identity issues, referrals for confidential STI treatment and HIV testing, and linkages to support groups for HIV-positive workers.
Lessons learned: The study revealed the urgent need for a comprehensive HIV workplace response in the call centre industry. With appropriate support from government and community groups, the workplace can serve as an ideal location to deliver quality services to vulnerable groups such as MSM.
Next steps: On the basis of the study the ILO, together with NGOs and private enterprise, will advocate for and support the creation of workplace HIV programmes tailored to the needs of MSM.