The Health Policy Project has ended, but work continues under a new USAID five-year project, Health Policy Plus (HP+).
Communicating Out of Isolation: HIV and Harnessing Communication Technology Among Gay Men, Men Who Have Sex with Men, and Trans Persons
NEWS & VIEWS
By Darrin Adams, Senior HIV Technical Advisor, Health Policy Project, Futures Group
Hankies, earrings, phone lines, the walls of bathrooms, bars, and bath houses, chat rooms, message boards, web sites, and apps. All modes of communication, for their respective eras, of gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) and trans persons to link up, hook up, hang out, and organize. As methods and technology evolve, these individuals, communities, and populations pioneer Internet and communication technology (ICT) and online social networking, more out of necessity in living in highly stigmatized environments. Gay men, MSM, and trans persons are resilient and usually find a way to harness existing ICT to find and create community, beat back the thicket of isolation, connect intimately, and have a space to seek out and find others.
Reaching out from isolation was a theme of the July 21 Global Village Youth Pavilion session “Like Me, Tweet Me, Post Me: Community Innovations Using Mobile and Online Technology for men who have sex with men (MSM) and Trans Youth HIV Programming.” Presenters in this session covered a range of geographic locals (Southeast Asia, West Africa, Asia Pacific) and presented their work that used ICT for linkages to HIV testing, counseling for psychosocial support, and awareness campaigns.
I can personally attest to this reaching out from the thicket of isolation. Growing up queer in a small town in Oklahoma was tough. My family was one of the first to get the Internet connection, and at the age of 12 my worldview and sexuality window burst open. The modem daily tapped out a Morse code of beeps, sending out a signal for freedom and receiving the data bits needed to free me from solitary confinement.
Through my work on a special issue highlighting community voices in ICT, the Global Village session, and other sessions at the MSM Global Forum pre-conference, I realized that there is a connection between the Darrin of 20 years ago, the Darrin of now, and the panelists and their communities from all over the world. We use the means we have to reach out and connect, whether that connection is lasts minutes, hours, or a life time.
If gay men, MSM, and trans persons are already using ICT, then it only makes sense to use these means to tackle a health issue that cripples these communities – HIV. A UNAIDS panelist asked the audience to “tap into the boldness” of this generation. I agree with him completely and would add that we should support and promote their innovation, resourcefulness, and expertise to contextualize their own HIV response.
For more information on the Health Policy Project’s work with key populations, see http://www.healthpolicyproject.com/index.cfm?id=topics-KeyPopulations
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