Ground-breaking study of Caribbean men who have sex with men launched

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Ground-breaking study of Caribbean men who have sex with men launched
UNAIDS Caribbean Regional Support Team Director, Dr Ernest Massiah (left) and Director of the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP), Dereck Springer.
UNAIDS Caribbean Regional Support Team Director, Dr Ernest Massiah (left) and Director of the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP), Dereck Springer.

PRESS RELEASE — The Caribbean Men’s Internet Survey (CARIMIS) is the region’s largest study of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men as well as the first such survey to be conducted online.

While many respondents experienced homophobic abuse and negative self-perception, others were open about their sexuality and proactive about their sexual health. The study showed great diversity in the sexual identities and behaviour of respondents. It also revealed several commonly-held aspirations relating to life, safety and relationships.

The research was done by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) Caribbean Regional Support Team in collaboration with Sigma Research of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. It was partly supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The data collection period was November 2011 to June 2012. The study targeted men who were 18 or older, lived in the Caribbean and were either attracted to men, had sex with men, or thought they might do so in the future. The sample comprised 3,567 men living in 33 Dutch-, English-, French- and Spanish-speaking Caribbean countries and territories. Almost half of CARIMIS respondents (47%) were university graduates, while 50% attained secondary or post-secondary education. While the results are not representative of all men who have sex with men in the Caribbean, they offer insight into the experiences of people who do not typically participate in traditional behavioural surveys.

“Now that we have called attention to the issue, how do we really begin to have the conversations in our homes, churches, mosques, temples and parliaments? How do we translate a lot of these findings to inform policy?” challenged Director of the Pan Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP), Mr. Dereck Springer at the CARIMIS launch in Port of Spain, Trinidad. “At the level of PANCAP the current focus is to reduce stigma, eliminate discrimination and uphold human rights for everyone. But the real work has to be done at the level of the family and community.”

About half the CARIMIS respondents (52%) had not come out to many of their family members, friends, work or school colleagues. The survey found that while those who were out tended to have more positive self-perception and exhibit better health-seeking behaviour, those who were not were less vulnerable to homophobic abuse.

“This is the paradox of stigma. Fear and secrecy may make a man less likely to experience harassment or violence, but also less likely to have safer sex,” UNAIDS Caribbean Director, Dr. Ernest Massiah observed.

Many CARIMIS respondents experience intimidation, verbal abuse and violence because of their sexuality. Within the past month of responding to the survey, one in three had been stared at or intimidated, while almost one in four experienced verbal insults or name-calling.

About one in ten reported being physically assaulted in the past five years. Younger men and those who were more out were more vulnerable to intimidation and verbal abuse.

Chairperson of the Equal Opportunity Commission in Trinidad and Tobago, Lynette Seebaran-Suite, noted that lessons on addressing the vulnerability of men who have sex with men to violence, may be drawn from the domestic violence movement.

“There is no need to reinvent the wheel,” Mrs. Seebaran-Suite said. “There have been crisis interventions, hotlines, shelters and counselling services. Then you move on to legislation and initiating a national dialogue to change the mores of society and try to aim at prevention.”

She insisted that the public debates surrounding these issues are central to the process of public education and shifts in attitudes. Many respondents had negative feelings about their sexuality because they internalised unfavourable social attitudes about same-sex attraction. This was linked with stress, higher rates of behaviour associated with HIV risk and worse sexual health outcomes. Younger men, those who have never tested for HIV, those who had sex with women only or with both men and women, and those who were less out were more likely to belong to this group. This phenomenon is more common among men who have sex with men in the Caribbean than in Europe where a similar study, the European MSM Internet Survey, was done. The findings suggest that health interventions should be coupled with psychosocial support that
specifically addresses sexual identity and self-perception.

The group was very diverse. More than half (58%) described themselves as gay or homosexual, 24% said they were bisexual and 2% said they were straight. Another 15% indicated that they do not use a term to describe their sexual identity. The majority (91%) had sex with a man in the past year, and 23% had sex with both men and women. Many respondents said they want stable relationships, emotional connection, freedom from psychological and social barriers and safer sex.

David Soomarie, Coordinator of Community Action Resource (CARE), one of the region’s oldest non-governmental organisations serving people living with HIV, noted the value of responding to the new ways in which people express and negotiate their sexuality.

“The study shows that there is a complex web of sexual identity expressed and experienced by men across the Caribbean. It provided a space for disclosure of sexual desire and behaviour that would otherwise be ridiculed in public spaces. Crimes of physical and sexual violence are often not reported for fear of this kind of ridicule. This approach shows a key avenue for behaviour change interventions,” Mr. Soomarie said.

“There have been, are, and always will be adult men who have private, consensual relationships with other men,” Dr. Massiah said. “We need to remove laws that perpetuate prejudice against these people. We need anti-discrimination legislation. We need more faith-based organisations to raise their voices against discrimination. And we need communities affected by HIV to assert their right to respect and dignity.”

Details on these and other findings are available on www.unaidscaribbean.org Country and sub-regional reports will be made available to stakeholders for programmatic use. To view videos and join the conversation about these results, please visit the UNAIDS Caribbean online, on Twitter (#CARIMIS), on Facebook or via our YouTube Channel.

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18 COMMENTS

  1. I support legalisation of sex toys. If homosexuality and ganja gona be legalised , sex toys need to be included.

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  2. If in the bible homosexuality is wrong like other sins like fornication then it is WRONG, so NO HUMANS OR SOCIETY can make it RIGHT!!THIS IS A NASTY ACT that nasty humans adopt and want to force it down our throats! HOMOSEXUALITY IS PURE NASTINESS!!!

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    • I Believe my Next Vacation will be in the City of Sodom . I Wonder if I Will Have the Privilege of meeting Gomorrah ? 🙂 My My , it would be Comforting to meet such an Icon and Famous Person . My my My , the Fun and Frolic I would have there ; Let Me See , My Bags are Packed , Got all My Credit Cards , Cash , Travelers checks , the hotel is already Booked , My Bible and hymn Book so I can attend Saturday , and Sunday Service , and ask The Lord for to forgive my Daily Sins , and what Else . MMMM Let me see , Oh ! Yes Have All The Gay Sex I So Crave 🙂 , before Heading to my Little St Lucia ! Where The Morality of Gay Life Continues , and it's Buggery Laws with all those Bible Totting HYPOCRITES ! Who Seem to Recite what they want From the Bible , and not Regarding Their Own Sins . Bless Me Father For I am a Sinner , and I Have Sinned , AMEN ! 🙂 🙂

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  3. I believe homosexuality is a hormone imbalance an like any other maladies or deficiencies whatever they call it there should be a pill or someway to fix it. but don't force it on us to accept what is wrong. if all of the same sex were to pair up the human race will become extinct this is how wrong it is. lets not expose our young ones to this option. let us not extinct our human race.

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  4. Who can say what is truly right and wrong in the society we live today.

    Since becoming more westernized over the years we have lost our own cultural norms and values. Cultural norms are what keep people of a similar culture moving in the same direction. It is clear we are not at that point anymore.

    Gone are the days where we had systems in place to help transmit those cultural norms. In our society of the olden days the government stood strong by the cultural norms. They were enforced in schools and and even in the household.

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  5. I am straight and proud!.wanna print this on my shirt and i bet you that would seem offensive to some people and then they would say i am a homophobe... smh

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  6. Please Lord....say it ain't so....!!! Homosexuality is so....wrong..!!!!.oh no shut the back door. ...

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  7. grow up Lucians stop being sooo small minded people have a right to their personal lives. Again do not judge Allhave sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Do not throw stones no mattre gay straight they hav e a right to live they pay their taxes so hush.

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    • its true we all have a right to our own personal lives and should not judge but homosexuality is WRONG just like the other sins lying and stealing etc. but just cause you do it and dont think nothing is wrong with it does not justify the reason that what you are doing is right because it is WRONG in the eyes of the lord whatever sin we commit and regard less if all have sinned and come short of the glory of God those not give a man to continue living in that sin and say "ok you know what everybody sins so what thats ok" no its not.what that is saying is that every person is a sinner and have not lived the life god intended for us to live by and all of us need to check our self and come to him for salvation cause we all are sinners it doesn't mean we have to continue in our sin.

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  8. How do the facilitators of this study obtain their subjects in order to report these statistics? Do they randomly select men on the streets, is there a targeted audience, or do these men willingly complete the survey?

    What is this new term " men having sex w men " MSM? What differentiates this term from gay/homosexual ?

    Has the study identified why men who are hiding their homosexuality less likely to practice safe sex? Is it because they have to make a conscientious decision to have premeditated sex in a manner in which they have been taught is unnatural?

    Can this study also inquire if these men ways in which women can know if a man is not straight ?

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  9. They have a problem legalizing ganja, but they want to legalize homosexuality. Disobedient children must get a blow, remember the time of Noah, remember Sodom and Gomorrah.

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  10. shout the front door. If we are having this discussion, there should be a push for the legalization of sex toys.

    If we are entertaining such, why am I as a straight person being hindered for the use of sex toys in my heterosexual relationship

    It is said they are illegal and as best as I know so is homosexual relationship.

    Someone correct me if I am wrong

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    • yes so true and i still cant see the reason why a sex toy is illegal since it is there to enhance ones sexual desires i guess the moral they want to keep is so that we dont turn out to be freaky people lol Just saying

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