Alex Fraser works at Society Against Sexual Orientation & Discrimination (SASOD) in Guyana. The team at SASOD have proposed an online platform called H.app.E that combines entertainment with information on safe sex practices for men who have sex with men in Guyana.
Alex and his partners are one of twelve teams led by youth advocates from around the world who will join us for Out With It: Community Solutions for the Sexual Health and Rights of Young Gay and Bisexual Men. These twelve teams will have the chance to present and workshop their solutions at our event in Amsterdam on July 22nd, 2018. Help support this event by donating here: https://bit.ly/2mu5Q1j
MSMGF: Tell us a little about yourself!
Alex: I am currently the Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) Representative for Guyana Global Fund Country Coordinating Mechanism Secretariat working in the three areas that are HIV/AIDS, TB & Malaria and also volunteer member of SASOD. Working as an HIV / AIDS Counselor and Tester has prepared me to meet the challenges of a developer role in professional environment. I have shown my competency in counseling for Harm Reduction, Substances Abuse, Sexual Health, Family Planning, Gender & Domestic Violence, etc. and clerical roles such as filing, typing and dealing with the public over the past 7 years and counting.
M: How did you get involved in this project?
A: Being a part of SASOD and also representing the MSM Community in Guyana, I have seen the challenges that members of my community face when accessing health care services. This situation has caused me great pain and served as my main source of motivation for trying to create a change. I wanted to see social justice and equality; I wanted my friends to not have to worry about feeling scared or uncomfortable when seeking sexual health services. It was at one of our monthly members meeting at SASOD, that the topic came up again, and by the end of the session, “H.app.E –the fun/friendly sexual health app” was conceived.
M: Tell us more about the challenge your solution aims to address.
A: In Guyana, MSM are face severe stigma and discrimination because of punitive laws, as well as socio cultural prejudices, and this has a negative effect on both the provision and use of sexual health services by this group. Without easy access to these services, MSM are less likely to test for HIV, do routine STI screening or access whatever care and treatment they need. All of these factors can increase our risks acquiring and/or transmitting HIV and other STIs. H.app.E intends to combat this challenge by providing MSM with vital information on sexual health and HIV/STI prevention. Additionally, by using the H.app.E MSM will be able to access links and referrals to counseling and friendly care and treatment sites. We consider this a valid approach, since it reduces stigma and discrimination, by allowing for both remote and anonymous access to information. Further, a recent survey showed that over 50% of young Guyanese MSM meet there sexual partners online which would suggest that a medium like H.app.E would be an excellent tool to engage them sexual health and HIV. Finally, inaccessibility of Guyana’s hinterland communities limits SASOD’s reach to MSM in these far-flung regions and with the implementation of the H.app.E project this challenge could also be potentially addressed. H.app.E is results-oriented and will have measurable impact on the accessibility of sexual health and HIV services by MSM. It also aligns perfectly with the National Aids Programme Secretariat’s vision of improving access to health care for MSM.
Presently, no app of this nature exists anywhere in the English-speaking Caribbean. SASOD serves as the secretariat of the Caribbean Forum for Liberation of Genders and Sexualities (CariFLAG) – the pan-Caribbean organizational key population’s network. This provides us a prime opportunity, to team up with our sister nations, to replicate and adapt H.app.E to these countries where MSM face similar challenges, like those in Guyana.
M: What are you most looking forward to during “Out With It”?
A: My team members and I are excited and feel honored that we will have the opportunity to present our project at “Out With It”. We absolutely look forward to brainstorming with other young MSM and receiving feedback that would improve H.app.E in addition, we are also anxious to see what the other teams have come up with, especially, if those solutions can be applied to the context of Guyana.
All the knowledge that we gain from this experience would be feedback to our MSM population at home thorough our monthly meetings at SASOD and equally through our social media pages and website. Similarly via the CairFlages platform our counterparts in the Caribbean will be able to access this source of information.
Ideally we hope to win the “Out With It” challenge so that our project can be funded. Once H.app.E becomes a reality the sexual health and HIV outcomes on MSM in Guyana will undoubtedly improve.
The Out With It Pre-Meeting and Reception is a day-long interactive youth-led event centered around generating and refining innovative, community-led solutions for the sexual health and rights of young gay and bisexual men.
Join us on July 22nd, 2018 at the KIT Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam, Netherlands.