Reaching overseas born men who have sex with men for HIV prevention and research – What next?

A report on the symposium session on day 2 of the Conference.

One of the emergent themes of this conference that has made an impression on me has been the conversations and debates about “tackling” the issue of working with men who have sex with men wo are born overseas.

We have seen from the data presented on the first day by Professor Rebecca Guy and repeated throughout the last 2 days. The national trends of new HIV infections state MSM who are born overseas especially Asian and Latin American men. The Kirby Institute indicates that rates for HIV infections have risen from 31% to 47% in 4 years.

The obvious question of WHY? Was discussed in depth during the session Tuesday afternoon titled “Reaching overseas born men who have sex with men MSM for HIV prevention and research – What next?”

One of the first discussions was; what is Overseas BORNNESS? This was interesting as there are so many characteristics of a person being born overseas and their current contextual sense of who “I Am”. Men born overseas now traveling on holidays, or here as a student, men born overseas whose parents migrated  when they were young, men born here of Asian parents.

One consensus during the session is that the availability of the biomedical solution to elimination the risk if HIV transmission - PrEP - is not going to get men into the GP clinic in droves just because it is here.

As the Manager of CEH, Alison Coelho stated foundation education is still needed in some communities regarding HIV as a disease let alone who, why and how people are at risk of infection.

Working in regional Victoria in Sexual Health and Infectious Diseases we have this dilemma as in the last ten years our town has been the designated settlement area for over 1000 peoples from Refugee Camps in Burma- the Karen people. The well documented barriers of communication and language barriers due to illiteracy and lack of cultural sensitive resources still exist in our health services.

The general consensus from all speakers was – we don’t know what we don’t know yet, so we can’t make definite plans for health care. But health services are funded to be seen meeting targets and “doing the numbers”.

This issue will not be addressed in a singular medical model, what is required is a Wraparound model that includes multiple service involvement:

  • Particularly services including involving peer support agencies, both direct contact and online services.
  • Increasing the role of Peer Navigators whom have experience negotiating the health sector.
  • Primary and tertiary series becoming more culturally competent.
  • Reducing the barriers of access to medications for people who are Medicare ineligible.
  • The availability of suitable translation material that is translatable, culturally sensitive, that communities can use to learn about HIV.

Author bio:

Louise Holland - Clinical Nurse Consultant – Nurse Practitioner Candidate, Women’s Health and Sexual and Reproductive Health, Bendigo Community Health Services (BCHS). Louise has worked in the field of Women’s, Sexual and Reproductive Health for the last 17 years. Louise's role is to coordinate the LMR STI/BBV Program in partnership with the Victorian Aids Council. Louise also works part time at Bendigo Health as a Clinical Nurse Consultant in the Infectious Diseases Service. Louise is passionate about rural health care.