Mapping Pathways is a multi-national project to develop and nurture a research-driven, community-led global understanding of the emerging evidence base around the adoption of antiretroviral-based prevention strategies to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The evidence base is more than results from clinical trials - it must include stakeholder and community perspectives as well.

09 December 2011

The Complexity of Changing Behaviors

So, what have we learned about prevention?

Inform, plead, scare them straight—HIV-prevention messages have covered it all.

Those working in prevention thought that if they gave people information about the disease, it would help protect them, according to Dr. Jennifer Lauby, a researcher at the Public Health Management Corporation.
"We found out that it's more complicated than that," she said.

Her colleague Lee Carson agreed. "Education alone doesn't equal behavior change," Carson said. "We see that in smoking and things like that."

Prevention has to be more comprehensive, Lauby said.

"There're really a lot of factors that go into making people at risk for HIV, including social factors, community factors, access to care," she said. "We have to look at all of those factors when we talk about HIV prevention."

Focusing on specific groups

To get a better sense of those factors, researchers such as Lauby and Carson started looking at specific groups with very high infection rates. One such group is African American men who have sex with men—and women.

Andrew Jackson, who helps out with a research project involving this group at the Public Health Management Corporation, said it is hard to reach this population because the men are very secretive about their lives and sexual activities.

Jackson is African American, gay, and HIV positive. Growing up in an Ohio steel-mill town, as a member of the Baptist church, secrecy became part of his life early on.

"You had to be all man, you couldn't divulge if you had a secret that you didn't want to give out," Jackson said.

Mum is the word not just when it comes to the behavior itself, but also when it comes to HIV, said Philadelphian Douglas Van Lue. And that puts men at risk.

"If nobody is talking about it, then nobody is asking about it, and then there's just the sexual behavior going on," he said

Both Van Lue and Jackson help spread the word about the research project.

Read the rest.

[Content that is linked from other sources is for informational purposes and should not construe a Mapping Pathways position.]

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