Motivating HIV testing among MSM using internet and mobile phones

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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.

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)

Impact of Mexico City’s smoking ban on local businesses

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Smoking ban had positive impact on Mexico City businesses

Mexico City’s 2008 city-wide smoking ban has not had a negative effect on revenues, wages and employment levels in the businesses affected by the law, including restaurants, nightclubs, bars and taverns, a study finds.

The study’s findings are consistent with results from similar studies carried out in other countries and settings globally. Smoke-free environments protect the health of non-smokers and workers in the hospitality industry, and also contribute to decreasing the social acceptability of smoking and the consumption of active cigarette smokers.

“These results provide scientific evidence to policymakers and legislators in Mexico and in other countries to impel local laws that promote 100% smoke-free public places in order to fulfill the provisions of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control,” the study concluded.

Read more at Suite101.

1. Guerrero López CM, Jiménez Ruiz JA, Reynales Shigematsu LM, Waters HR. The economic impact of Mexico City’s smoke-free law. Tobacco Control, published online 3 Feb 2011.  (open access)

Knowledge of HPV, cervical cancer and vaccines among young women in Brazil

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HPV and cervical cancer education is needed for young Brazilian women

Young Brazilian women of low socioeconomic status were found to have low levels of knowledge of human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer development and prevention, according to a study of women age 15-24 years after their first delivery in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Only one third of the women reported having “ever heard about HPV”, despite the fact that the study began 16 days after public news and announcements about the first regulatory approval of one of the HPV vaccines in June 2006, and the fact that the women had relatively high levels of education within the Brazilian context. Only 19 percent and seven percent of the women, respectively, knew that HPV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and that it can cause cervical cancer.

Awareness regarding HPV vaccines was high, with 74 percent of the women mentioning their preventative aspect, and 57 percent of women could identify at least one of the vaccines they had received; that is, they could name the vaccine or the disease which it was intended to prevent.

Despite the possibility to provide a large number of information to mothers during the prenatal and postpartum periods, this group of women had low levels of knowledge of HPV and cervical cancer development and prevention. “Thus, these women could benefit greatly from educational interventions to encourage participation in primary and secondary cervical cancer prevention programs,” the study concluded.

1. Rama CH, Villa LL, Pagliusi S. Awareness and knowledge of HPV, cervical cancer, and vaccines in young women after first delivery in São Paulo, Brazil–a cross-sectional study. BMC Women’s Health 2010; 10: 35. (open access)

A tax increase on cigarettes reduced tobacco smoking in Mexico

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A tobacco tax increase reduces smoking

Mexico implemented a cigarette tax increase in 2007, effectively raising the price that Mexican smokers pay for a cigarette pack by nearly 13 percent, which in turn led to a 29 percent reduction in cigarette smoking among Mexicans, according to a study published in the December 2010 issue of the journal Tobacco Control.

The study analyzed data from the International Tobacco Control (ICT) Policy Evaluation Survey conducted in 2006 and 2007 in Mexico.

“Since no other tobacco control policies or programs were implemented during the period analyzed, the tax increase appears likely to have decreased [cigarette] consumption,” the study said.

Read more at Suite101.

1. Saenz-de-Miera B, Thrasher JF, Chaloupka FJ, et al. Self-reported price of cigarettes, consumption and compensatory behaviours in a cohort of Mexican smokers before and after a cigarette tax increase. Tobacco Control 2010; 19: 481-487. (open access)

Chile’s partial smoking ban ineffective at reducing passive smoke

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Complete Smoking Bans Reduce Secondhand Smoke

Chile enacted national legislation restricting smoking in public places and workplaces in 2007. But research indicates that the country’s smoking ban provides no protection from secondhand smoke exposure to employees and customers in bars and restaurants because the law is not comprehensive. The partial smoking ban allows bars and restaurants to decide whether or not they will be smoke-free or to designate smoking and non-smoking areas.

There is urgent need to replace the current legislation with a comprehensive anti-smoking law that fully protects all people and workers from exposure to environmental tobacco smoke in public places, according to a study that compared levels of secondhand smoke exposure in bars and restaurants in Santiago, Chile, before and after the implementation of the 2007 smoking ban. The study appears in the December 2010 issue of the journal Tobacco Control.

“Comprehensive smoke-free legislation is the best policy and the international standard to eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke in indoor public places and workplaces,” the study said.

Read more at Suite101.

1. Erazo M, Iglesias V, Droppelmann A, et al. Secondhand tobacco smoke in bars and restaurants in Santiago, Chile: evaluation of partial smoking ban legislation in public places. Tobacco Control 2010; 19: 469-474. (open access)

Local anti-smoking policies withstand tobacco industry challenges

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Implementing comprehensive smoking bans at the national level is a challenge in many countries due to the effective lobbying efforts of the tobacco industry. But the successful implementation and enforcement of a 100% smoke-free policy in the province of Santa Fe, Argentina, serves as evidence that local governments can withstand tobacco industry opposition and enact anti-smoking legislation.

Santa Fe is the first sub-national jurisdiction in Latin America to have enacted a comprehensive smoke-free law following the recommendations of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which provides an internationally coordinated response to addressing the global tobacco epidemic.

Read more at Suite101.

1.  Sebrié EM, Glantz SA. Local smoke-free policy development in Santa Fe, Argentina. Tobacco Control 2010; 19: 110-116. (open access)

Smoking ban in bars, restaurants improved health in Argentina

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A comprehensive smoke-free law prohibiting designated smoking areas was found to protect the health of hospitality workers in Argentina, according to a study in the journal Tobacco Control. Enactment and enforcement of the smoking ban led to significant reductions in secondhand smoke exposure and respiratory symptoms.

The study was conducted in Neuquén, Argentina (population 270,000). The city enacted a 100% smoke-free ordinance, which banned cigarette smoking in all public venues and workplaces, including bars and restaurants, in November 2007.

Previous studies conducted throughout the United States and Europe have linked enactment of comprehensive smoke-free legislation with reductions in respiratory symptoms and hospital admissions due to heart attacks. But this was the first study to show the positive impact of a 100% smoke-free law in the workplace on the health of hospitality workers in Latin America, according to the authors.


1. Schoj V, Alderete M, Ruiz E, et al. The impact of a 100% smoke-free law on the health of hospitality workers from the city of Neuquén, Argentina. Tobacco Control 2010; 19: 134-137. (open access)

Better diabetes training for primary care providers needed in Brazil

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Primary health care providers in Brazil reported in a study that they felt insufficiently prepared to conduct educational practices for people with diabetes, pointing to gaps in their knowledge on the disease and the importance of diabetes self-management. The study findings indicate that the health professionals are aware and want to modify their behavior in patient education and complain of a lack of training for such change, specifically in relation to patient education in diabetes.

The current patient education process is based on health professionals “transferring” information on diabetes, rather than a more comprehensive and effective educational approach. The study suggests that the more appropriate approach should focus on the need to establish a dialogue between the provider and the patient and thus on the capacity to hear the needs and demands of the patient.

1. Torres HC, Rozemberg B, Amaral MA, Bodstein RCA. Perceptions of primary healthcare professionals towards their role in type 2 diabetes mellitus patient education in Brazil. BMC Public Health 2010; 10: 583. (open access)

Cigarette point-of-sale ads in Guatemala and Argentina

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Cigarette point-of-sale advertising is highly prevalent in the capital cities of Guatemala and Argentina, indicating that these two Latin American countries need comprehensive tobacco advertising bans that include point-of-sale restrictions. The findings are based on a study conducted in Guatemala City and Buenos Aires.

All 240 stores in the study sold cigarettes in close proximity to candy. It has been suggested that such placement encourages teenagers to see tobacco as harmless and as common as candy.

Sixty percent of stores in Guatemala and 80 percent of stores in Argentina had cigarette ads. In Guatemala, cigarettes were displayed on top of the counter in 100 percent of big stores, 54 percent of small stores and 83 percent of supermarkets. Only in gas stations, most (56 percent) cigarettes were displayed behind the counter, but still in sight. In Argentina, cigarettes were displayed on top of the counter in 90 percent of big stores and in 77 percent of small stores.

Tobacco point-of-sale advertising has been found to increase brand recognition and teenagers’ perception about the ease of purchasing cigarettes.

1. Barnoya J, Mejia R, Szeinman D, Kummerfeldt CE. Tobacco point-of-sale advertising in Guatemala City, Guatemala and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Tobacco Control 2010; 19: 338-341. (open access)