HIV prevention needs for men who have sex with men in Swaziland
Men who have sex with men (MSM) have a high HIV burden and also often face multiple other challenges accessing HIV services, including legal and social issues. Although Swaziland recently started responding with interventions for MSM, significant gaps still exist both in information and programming. This study aimed to explore the HIV prevention needs of MSM in Swaziland, including factors elevating their risks and vulnerabilities to HIV infection; to find out what HIV prevention strategies exist; and to determine how best to meet the prevention needs of MSM. A total of 50 men who reported anal sex with other men in the past 12 months were recruited through simple respondent driven sampling. They completed either a structured quantitative survey (n = 35) or participated in a semi-structured qualitative interview (n = 15). Both quantitative and qualitative findings indicated perceived and experienced stigma among MSM. This predominantly manifested as internalised stigma, which may lead to alcohol abuse and sexual risky behaviours. At least 83% (29/35) of the quantitative sample had been labelled with derogatory terms because of their sexual orientation, while 66% (23/35) had experienced being avoided. There was limited knowledge of risk practices: When asked, 54% (19/35) of quantitative respondents reported that vaginal and anal sex carry an equal risk of HIV infection. Participants also had little knowledge on new HIV prevention methods such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and rectal microbicides. MSM needs included safe spaces in form of drop-in centres and non-hostile HIV services. Although Swaziland recently started interventions for key populations, including MSM, there is still a general lack on information to inform managers and implementers on the HIV prevention needs of MSM in Swaziland. Such information is crucial for designers of official and HIV programmes. Research is needed to increase knowledge on the HIV prevention needs for key populations, including MSM.
Keywords: fear, key populations, risks, stigma, vulnerabilities