HIV prevention and care for MSM still on lockdown

Published: November 3, 2011

The New Age (TNA) reports that visiting Limpopo Health and Social Development MEC Dikiledi Magadzi has encouraged inmates at Polokwane correctional facilities to know their health status by screening for conditions like HIV and TB. Whether or not health services being offered at prisons will include  HIV messaging and care specifically targeted at men who have sex with men (MSM) remains uncertain.

Although MSM have been recognised by the South African government as a group made especially vulnerable to HIV through stigma and a lack of prevention and care that addresses their unique needs, MSM targeted HIV prevention and care is not yet common practice in SA prisons.

 MSM include gay men but also those men who identify as straight but engage in same sex sexual practices.

 Inmates are a prime example of MSM because while many inmates would label themselves as heterosexual, same sex sexual practices are common in male prison populations. Reasons for this include sex being used as a bartering tool; exchanged for goods, money and even protection.

 MSM require very specific messaging and interventions because they may not feel that HIV prevention messaging targeted at homosexual men applies to them. Anal sex is is also more risky than vaginal sex and different precautions, such as the use of water-based lubricants, should be taken.

 The MEC visited the prison as part of an intensified case-finding campaign which shifts the emphasis from intervention to prevention. But prevention efforts in prisons are more likely to be weak if MSM targeted interventions are not put in place.

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