Two sides of the same coin: reducing HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men (MSM) and inject drugs

Published: July 18, 2010

Two sides of the same coin: reducing HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men (MSM) and inject drugs

A. Matheson1, A. Trist1, C. Cooper2

1ACON, Alcohol and Other Drugs Program, Sydney, Australia, 2ACON, Community Health Division, Sydney, Australia

Issues: Sex positivity has been instrumental in the success of Australian HIV prevention campaigns aimed at MSM for many years. This positive approach is based in well-established theories such as health promotion and adult learning, however there is often resistance to applying these principles to work that addresses injecting drug use risk practices. This presentation will explore potential challenges and benefits of a HIV prevention strategy that maintains a positive approach to people who inject drugs.

Description: A brief outline of the sex positivity movement, theoretical and policy underpinnings, and some practical applications of the approach will be provided. Attendees will then be invited to explore some of the barriers and incentives to using positive representations in work that addresses health issues associated with injecting drug use. The evidence base for this approach and some examples will be provided.

Lessons learned: Sex positive approaches to HIV prevention among MSM have been highly successful, and have assisted in promoting strength and cohesion within these communities in Australia. Nationwide support from AIDS organisations for such approaches and involvement of affected communities has been instrumental in ensuring consistency in HIV prevention work aimed at MSM. An absence of explicit policy directives around the need for positive representation of injecting drug users in BBV prevention materials has contributed to reluctance by health services to acknowledge the pleasures and realities of injecting drug users’ lived experiences. Ambivalent or negative representations of injecting drug users are considered a ‘safe’ option, however they contribute to the ongoing marginalisation and stigma of injecting drug users.

Next steps: There are opportunities for health and HIV prevention services to enshrine positive representation of injecting drug users and community involvement in policy. There is also clear need to advocate for the development of such policies at a higher level.

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