So I was a part of a study that was carried out in Jamaica in two (2) sites (Kingston and St. Andrew and Montego Bay). The aim of the study was to identify why some gay men did not want to go to the different testing spaces available to them, to access counselling and testing for HIV. We originally thought that stigma and discrimination was a key barrier that made it difficult for gay men to even want to get tested, but guess what?! We were wrong. Gay men……. or women (whichever you feel comfortable with being called) are afraid…… afraid of the testing process, afraid that they might hear that they’re HIV positive and afraid of the needles. It also turned out that the individuals who were afraid of getting tested, would have gone to get tested had their friends (whose opinions are considered VALUABLE) influenced them more and supported them in the testing process.
What does this mean? Instead of blabbering on and on, and telling your friends how you like getting tested, make it an inclusive conversation. Ask your friends if they have gotten tested and If they haven’t gotten a test done in a long time (6 months or more) and they’re sexually active, find out why they haven’t gone in to get one done. Go a step further and tell them that you’d love to go with them and bring them to a safe space such as Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL), the Ministry of Health (MOH) or the Jamaica Red Cross (JRC) to get tested. I’m sure with all of the encouragement they would not say no…….. Your friends listen to you more than you know….. Remember that. I will be making a more comprehensive post on the subject as soon as the report is made public.