A ground breaking new survey is aiming to find out more about the sex lives and health of young gay and bisexual men in the greater Mekong region of South East Asia to help improve the regional response to alarming rates of HIV transmission.
The confidential survey is part of the PULSE initiative, a research, advocacy and capacity building project led by Asia Pacific HIV and rights community network APCOM in partnership with community organisations, researchers and health authorities in Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. The project is funded by French 5% Initiative on AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria implemented by Expertise France under Ministry of Foreign Affairs oversight. The survey is online at: www.pulseasiasurvey.org
The survey has launched in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos and will be open for approximately six weeks, with surveys in Vietnam and Myanmar to launch shortly after.
HIV is a rising threat to the health of men who have sex with men (MSM) right across Asia, with MSM on track to account for more than half of the 300,000 new HIV transmissions per year that researchers expect to occur in the region by 2020.
Young MSM between the ages of 15 and 24 account for tens of thousands of these new cases every year. Young MSM are particularly vulnerable with low levels of HIV education, condom use and HIV testing. Many young MSM across the region also have limited access to HIV services and increased opportunities for sex through online dating.
However, the full picture about young MSM and HIV in Asia remains unclear due to a lack of recent and high quality epidemiological and behavioural data for young MSM. Also, young people are increasingly living their lives online but long-established data sets used by HIV researchers don’t capture this new reality. All these factors limit the effectiveness of HIV responses targeting young MSM in Southeast Asia, especially programmes using digital communications.
APCOM Executive Director Midnight Poonkasetwattana says the data generated by the PULSE survey will be crucial for filling in the gaps and will greatly improve HIV programmes for young MSM.
“For the first time ever this survey will help us take the cultural pulse of young MSM in the Mekong countries,” Mr Poonkasetwattana says. “We’ll be asking questions about sexual partners and practices, risk behaviors, knowledge of and access to HIV prevention, testing and treatment, and other issues related to drug use, mental health, and the impact of discrimination and bullying.”
“The PULSE survey will be conducted exclusively online, is completely confidential, only takes about 10 minutes to complete and we’re offering prizes to encourage young gay and bisexual men to participate. It’s an incredibly valuable opportunity for young gay and bisexual men to directly shape services in their countries which help protect their health and wellbeing. So, if you’re a young gay or bisexual man aged 15 to 24 and nationals of Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, please get involved, complete the survey and share it with your friends. You can make a real difference in the fight against HIV.”
“Also, to have the support of the governments of all five countries for this project is a huge step forward in terms of engaging policymakers with the need to reach young MSM and bring them into services that are youth-friendly. We’re extremely grateful for their support as well as the support of our other project partners.”
To deliver the survey, APCOM is working in partnership with community partners and health authorities in each country as well as researchers from Mahidol University in Thailand. PULSE’s national community partners are Bandanh Chaktomuk (BC) of Cambodia, Myanmar Youth Stars (MYS), Lao Positive Health Association (LaoPHA), Rainbow Sky Association of Thailand (RSAT), and the Vietnam Network of MSM and Transgender (VN-MSMTG).
Regional Counsellor in Global Health at the French Embassy in Bangkok Eric Fleutelot says the survey will help HIV workers deliver much better outcomes right across Southeast Asia. “Knowledge is power and the most effective way to power the HIV response in Asia is to understand the most effective ways to help the communities most at risk. The PULSE survey is extremely valuable research that will greatly benefit thousands of young men throughout Southeast Asia.”
For more information or to complete the survey please visit: www.pulseasiasurvey.org
For more information please contact:
Michael Badorrek, Senior Manager, Communications and Partnerships
+66 06 3840 1122 | [email protected] | Skype: mickbadskype