Anova Health Institute has just published the findings of research conducted with men who have sex with men (MSM) in rural Limpopo Province, which focused on understanding HIV risk in this population. The article, which appears in the African Journal of AIDS Research, discusses two crucial areas of risk for the rural MSM population that affect their chances of contracting HIV.
The first broad risk area is the rural social environment, and MSM’s experiences in their local communities. Study participants felt that rural villages were places where homophobic cultural norms were prevalent, and that this made it difficult to be open about their sexuality. In addition to this hostile environment, they reported that it was difficult for MSM in their area to support each other because of high levels of jealousy and competition.
The second focus area examines direct experiences of HIV risk and levels of knowledge about HIV prevention. The MSM who participated in the study thought that their community had high levels of knowledge about HIV prevention, but that this knowledge was generally about heterosexual HIV risk. For example, some men reported not being sure whether HIV could be transmitted through anal sex. While some participants reported always using condoms and water based lubricants for anal sex, others noted that this varied significantly among other MSM in their community. Other important risk factors identified included: uneven power dynamics between partners in sexual relationships; transactional sex; and multiple sexual partnerships.
This research is important because it shows that there is a need for HIV treatment, care, and prevention interventions that address the specific risks faced by rural MSM.
There are 50 free downloads available on this link to read the full report.