This came after UNDP’s realisation that the Zimbabwean government acknowledges the existence of Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) in the country but has not allocated for the needs of this group.
The UNDP has since contracted a local research institution, The Biomedical Research & Training Institute (BRTI) to carry out a study on sexual minorities in relation to HIV and AIDS in Zimbabwe.
According to UNDP, studies on the specific sexual practices of sexual minorities are critical, if models are to be built that combine biological plausibility with empirical information on associations between sexual practices and incidence rates of sexually transmitted infections.
“Without such data, public health professionals cannot provide sexual minorities with meaningful harm reduction information”, the UNDP says.
The study aims to identify characteristics of sexual minorities in Zimbabwe and the risks associated with HIV infection, identify risk factors and sexual behaviors that need to be changed by this group including factors and behaviours that need to be promoted.
It also seeks to characterise the types of violence that sexual minorities encounter in their daily lives, provide information for advocacy and for the development of communication strategies targeting sexual minorities.
The scope of the research, among other things includes, establishing an estimate population of sexual minorities, estimating the prevalence of HIV within each group and assessing factors that determine the different groups’ vulnerabilities to HIV infection and sexual behaviors that increase risk.
The research also seeks to characterize available services to each sub-group, through the legal or policy framework and implementation by NGOs and the public sector, also estimating sexual minorities’ access to prevention and treatment which includes HIV testing, counseling and ARV treatment.
A similar sub-study will also be carried out in prisons and linked populations. “The BRTI team will be conducting interviews and HIV tests to those willing. Results will be treated with the strictest confidentiality and stored under a code, not a real name. Test results will be revealed to only those who wish to know their status”
BRTI anticipates that the results will be used to inform policy reform and the development of inclusive HIV interventions. The results will be distributed to local and national stakeholders including policy makers and implementing agencies, as well as publications in scientific journals.