LIFEGUARD: HIV prevention campaign for gay men through safer sex workshop at gay bars in Japan

Published: July 22, 2010

LIFEGUARD: HIV prevention campaign for gay men through safer sex workshop at gay bars in Japan

S. Iizuka1, K. Shimada1, S. Ota1, A. Fujibe1,2, T. Oishi1, H. Edo1, K. Kawaguchi3

1OCCUR, Tokyo, Japan, 2Japan Foundation for AIDS Prevention (JFAP), Tokyo, Japan, 3Hiroshima Shudo University, Hiroshima, Japan

Issues: In Japan, nearly 70% of new HIV cases are among MSM in recent years. As male-to-male sex is frequently denied due to stigma and discrimination, it forces HIV epidemic underground and threatens health of gay men in Japan. Despite the efforts of a few NGOs and government programs, much remains to be done.
Description: Between September 2009 and February 2010, LIFEGUARD was conducted at 10 gay bars in Japan and worked in collaboration with 5 local governments. This evidence-based intervention, which was designed based on HIV risk assessment survey (N=341), resulted in the development and delivery a comprehensive HIV prevention campaign for gay men. The prevention campaign includes participatory BCC workshop, condom use, social marketing through peer educators, capacity building of communities, educational games on safer sex strategies, videos distributed on You Tube, online outreach utilizing gay social networking sites, individualized counseling on HIV and gay related issues, and referrals to HIV/AIDS services and community-based organizations.
Lessons learned: Establishing presence in gay bars where gay men traditionally gather and conducting peer-facilitated intervention is an effective strategy for overcoming obstacles such as lack of privacy-considered space, shame for speaking about sexuality, and limited access to education and prevention skills in the hetero-central society.
Participatory monitoring and evaluation showed an increase in condom use, positive attitude towards HIV testing, reduction of stigma and discrimination, and enhanced self esteem. Another key finding was the fact that even in a small community people were motivated to be involved in HIV prevention, as gay bars can function as base sites in their communities.
Next steps: LIFEGUARD can be successfully scaled up by being adopted in other MSM communities in the world where can share common characteristics of gay/MSM communities.

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