Behaviour change interventions Successful peer-recruited project shows it is possible to do prevention work with gay men in hostile environments

Gus Cairns
Original Article:

A community education and HIV prevention project that took place among 626 gay  men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) in St Petersburg in Russia and Budapest in Hungary produced significant falls in the proportion of men having unprotected sex, especially with casual or multiple partners. The incidence of HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) also decreased in the intervention arm, though the study was too small for these falls to be statistically significant

How subjects were recruited

The study, conducted in the two cities between 2007 and 2012, randomised men into two groups.

Men were recruited initially by means of anthropological research. Researchers connected with the gay community frequented gay bars, cruising grounds or attended private parties and identified individuals who seemed to a) have a particularly large number of social contacts and/or b) were acquainted with different groups of men who otherwise did not know each other, in other words served as social links, and/or c) confirmed that they often talked about important issues.

The recruiters identified 18 such ‘seed’ individuals. They were then asked to recruit other men they know for the study, who were in turn asked to recruit more men, who were each asked to recruit more men. There were thus three ‘rings’ of friends surrounding the initial ‘seed’ individual. There were ten groups recruited in Russia and eight in Hungary. The average number of men in each group was 35, and groups ranged in size from eight to 65 men. Groups in Hungary tended to be larger (average 46 members versus 25 members in Russia). Everything was done on a first-name basis and confidentiality was elaborately assured.

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