Men who have sex with men (MSM) have the highest HIV prevalence in Peru, yet they are underserved by traditional preventive programs. In Peru, the Internet and mobile phones have emerged as an effective and convenient tool to reach this population. A study published in PLoS ONE identifies five key themes that should be considered when designing an effective campaign to motivate HIV testing.

  1. Overcome fear of getting tested for HIV. Previous studies identify “fear of the consequences of a positive test result” as the main barrier for not getting tested among MSM. Since the 1980s, HIV testing campaigns in Peru have focused on fear, stigmatizing the disease and causing people to avoid getting tested out of fear of being positive. Future campaigns need to counteract this by providing motivational messages that transmit calmness and explain that HIV is now a chronic and treatable disease.
  2. Increase risk perception. MSM with high-risk practices often do not perceive themselves at risk. A brief explanation on the modes of transmission along with messages that can prompt participants to remember common risk situations they may have experienced would be useful to better understand the risks.
  3. Explain logistics. A successful campaign should include the marketing of the personnel, the place, information about the process, including the test itself, and the price of testing. The personnel include the professionals who will perform the HIV test and who will provide the results. The place includes the physical location where the test will be conducted, the operating hours, general attractiveness, comfort and accessibility. The price refers not only to monetary cost but also intangible costs such as embarrassment and psychological strain.
  4. Avoid stigmatizing and stereotyping content. Avoid language that implies gay men are promiscuous or more likely to have HIV. Use neutral characters (not stereotyped caricatures of gay men), as well as neutral language (absence of gay-related jargon) because either they were considered stigmatizing for gay-identified MSM, or because they will not feel identified within the heterosexually-identified MSM.
  5. Use appropriate layout and language. Study participants recommended that all text based information, when possible, should always be presented with images. Language should be simple and colloquial but not vulgar. The Layout should avoid the use of red, dark or gloomy colors. When possible, use humor because it makes information easier to understand and to remember.

These results serve as the basis to design an effective campaign to motivate HIV testing among gay and non-gay identified MSM in Lima, Peru, the study concludes.

Citation:
1. Blas MM, Menacho LA, Alva IE, et al. Motivating Men Who Have Sex with Men to Get Tested for HIV through the Internet and Mobile Phones: A Qualitative Study. PLoS ONE 2013; 8(1): e54012. (open access)

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